Last Updated: Tue Oct 10, 2023 - 3:53PM
Very few programs in Western Pennsylvania, regardless of sport, have the heritage and tradition of Jeannette football. The Jayhawks rank near or at the top in both wins and championships among WPIAL teams, and the program has also produced an endless collection of talent who went on to play at a higher level. Among the players who added to that tradition is Toby Cline, who helped Jeannette capture a pair of WPIAL titles and a state crown. Now in his third season at Edinboro, Cline is in the midst of a breakout campaign, ranking as one of the top players at his position in the entire conference. Cline is in the spotlight for this edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
As a freshman at Jeannette in 2017, Cline saw limited snaps on a dominant Jayhawks squad, as he compiled five carries for four yards. That season, Jeannette went 6-1 in conference play, with the lone loss coming against Clairton in the regular-season finale. In the WPIAL playoffs, Jeannette defeated Monessen, Rochester, and then gained revenge by bouncing the Bears in the semifinals. In the WPIAL Class 1A Championship game, Jeannette edged Imani Christian Academy 35-34, capturing district gold. In the PIAA playoffs, the Jayhawks bested Farrell, and then overwhelmed Homer-Center 42-12 in Hershey to win the state title, finishing 15-1.
The next year, Cline had a limited role once again on offense, posting five carries for 11 yards. Jeannette remained an elite team, going a perfect 6-0 in the conference. After a victory against Monessen in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 1A postseason, though, the Jayhawks were upset by Rochester, finishing 11-1.
As a junior in 2019, Cline ascended to a prominent role offensively, as he caught 21 passes for 301 yards, rushed 20 times for 38 yards, and scored five total touchdowns. He also saw some time at QB, hitting 6-of-10 passes for 75 yards. The Jayhawks compiled a conference mark of 5-1, and a loss to Sto-Rox in the playoffs ended Jeannette’s season with a record of 9-2.
In his senior season, Cline developed into one of the top receivers in the entire classification, as he caught 40 passes for 664 yards, rushed 10 times for 44 yards, and notched 10 total touchdowns. Jeannette went 6-1 in conference play, losing to Clairton to open the season. In the WPIAL playoffs, Jeannette rolled past Avella and Rochester to reach the title game. Jeannette then exacted payback against the Bears in the Class 1A Championship, prevailing 45-14. The Jayhawks continued into the state bracket, defeating Reynolds before falling to Steelton-Highspire 32-20 in the PIAA Championship to finish at 10-2.
In addition to his play at receiver, where he was a two-time All-Conference honoree, Cline also snagged seven interceptions in his career with Jeannette, and he was two-time All-Conference as a linebacker and punter. He also played for the Jeannette basketball team, earning three varsity letters on the hardwood.
Following his graduation, Cline matriculated to Edinboro University to continue on the gridiron. Joining the Fighting Scots as a safety in 2021, he appeared in three games, producing a fumble recovery. Edinboro posted a mark of 4-6 that season, including 3-4 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West.
A year ago, Cline participated in nine games, notching a dozen tackles, .5 sacks, a pass defensed, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Collectively, Edinboro went 5-6 overall, including 2-5 in the PSAC West.
This season, Cline has become a fixture in the secondary, as he’s played in five games, registering 26 tackles, a forced fumble, three passes defensed, and two interceptions, both of which came last week against Mercyhurst. As a result of his play, Cline was honored as the PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Week. Thus far, the Fighting Scots are 2-4 overall, including 1-2 in the conference.
Toby set aside time from his schedule to answer questions about his interception return touchdown last year, Jeannette’s championship tradition, and his favorite movie quote.
Q: You have taken on a larger role this season, already setting a career high in tackles. How have you evaluated your play to this point?
A: Being my first year playing a larger role, I feel that I have started this season at a good pace - making plays in spurts, but need to be more consistent. But I’m just getting started and I feel really good about the rest of the season.
Q: What has been the biggest area of improvement during your time at Edinboro?
A: I would say understanding the game and schemes each and every week. In high school, I would just go out and play. This being my third year, I have been able to learn the scheme of our defense really well.
Q: What was going through your mind during your interception return touchdown last year?
A: Before the play started, I knew what they were running. When I saw the ball coming, I was like no way he is throwing this. I caught it and didn’t look back. It was a special moment for sure; the first thing I did when I scored was looked up and knew that my brother was proud of me.
Q: Your team opened the season against Division I opponent Duquesne University. What did your team learn from that experience?
A: Opening the season at Duquesne was a great opportunity for us because it was a game where we would face adversity and we wanted to see how we would handle it. It was a game where we can get better and watch the film to make corrections.
Q: What team and individual objectives have you set for this season?
A: Our goal is to win the PSAC - this is the third year with Coach Nulph and his staff, and we believe this is our breakout year. Personally, I want to make All-PSAC safety.
Q: What led to your decision to attend Edinboro?
A: My decision to come to Edinboro was pretty easy. When I met with the coaching staff and came to visit here, I felt the love and family that came with Edinboro football. I thought that I had the best opportunity to play and enjoy college here at Edinboro.
Q: Which current teammates did you have relationships with prior to college?
A: I would say the only person I really knew was C.J Waldier, only because Jeannette played Yough in middle school. So, I knew him and his brother, Tristian, a little bit.
Q: What is your major and ideal future profession?
A: My major is exercise science and I want to become a strength and conditioning coach for a college program.
Q: Aside from football, what has been your favorite aspect of college?
A: The relationships I have made have been a big part of my life here at college. The relationship I have with the team and coaches is a family, and I really mean that. As well as outside of football, I have really good relationships with people here.
Q: You were part of a championship program at Jeannette. What made the Jayhawks so good?
A: I think that Jeannette has always been a winning program, and you grow up watching the good athletes before you while you are playing pee wee football. You grow up with the same group of kids, and when you play with the same people all your life, you build a great bond. Jeannette has a great history of winning and it just continues through generations.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory?
A: I would say senior year playing with my best friends was one of the best moments, for sure. But the greatest moment was my pick-six against Slippery Rock last year.
Q: If you could play against any player, past or present, who would you choose?
A: I would want to play with my brother. We were four years apart, so we were never able to be on the same team. All of my friends have played with their siblings and I always wanted to play with my brother, Austin. It would have been a lot of fun.
Q: Do you prefer water, a sports drink, or something else for football?
A: During the game, I just drink water and a hydration drink we have called Drip, but before the game, I will drink BODYARMOR or Pedialyte.
Q: To which movie or TV show can you recite nearly every line?
A: Rocky Balboa, when Rocky tells his son, “It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
Q: What advice would you give yourself as a high school freshman?
A: I would tell a freshman to listen to his coaches and work hard. Stay after practice and get extra work in; you need to do more than what’s expected. If you want to go to the next level, you have to be able to do ”the ordinary things extraordinary,” – Coach Shane Gaines.