Nothing like making it to a state championship game to put your program on the map. Such was the case for coach Mike Sonneborn and four of his Dade Christian football players as the fruits of their accomplishment paid off on Wednesday afternoon.
Two months after falling to Jacksonville University Christian in the title game, Terrence Alls, Aaron Batten, Gary Sampson and Sterling Mack enjoyed a much nicer day in the school’s auditorium when they all signed scholarship commitments.
The headliner was Alls, a wide receiver who wore his Duke cap into the auditorium and will go play for coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils for the next four years.
“I committed last August and there was never a doubt where I was going,” said Alls who limped through the championship with a bad shoulder which required surgery the following week. “It’s obviously a superior academic institutions which is really exciting and coach [David] Cutcliffe really has the program going in the right direction. They play a very wide open style which really fits for the kind of system I want to play in.”
Batten, a 6-4, 218 tight end signed with Syracuse while Sampson (Liberty College, Va.) and Mack (Western Illinois) went the smaller school route. Sampson, who played both ways and is being projected as a strong safety, turned in an inspiring performance in the championship game battling an injured ankle while playing both ways while Mack, a linebacker actually missed all of last season when he ruptured an Achilles in August.
“A bittersweet day for sure,” said Sonneborn. “You’ve got four kids that we’ve had since the ninth grade and watched them grow up and help raise this program to new levels and now you have to watch them go out the door. But it’s a very proud moment for me, our coaches, faculty and parents because not only are they talented football players but great kids as well who never gave me a single problem. Not only will they make their respective football programs better, but the institutions they attend as well.” Bill Daley
Despite all the coaching changes taking place at FIU, the one thing that did not change for Belen Jesuit defensive back Xavier Hines was his desire to become a Panther.
Hines made his commitment official by signing his letter of intent along with five other teammates in front of a large crowd at Belen’s cafeteria.
“I stayed along with them because I enjoyed my time with the new coaching staff,” Hines said. “I really felt at home going there and I was stuck on FIU.”
It was former FIU coach Mario Cristobal and his staff that originally went after Hines, and his dismissal created some uncertainty about his collegiate future. But despite the transition to new coach Ron Turner, Hines will be playing college football minutes away from where he attended high school.
“This is all a reflection of their hard work over the past four years,” Belen head coach Richard Stuart said of his departing seniors. “These guys were a part of our rise and I’m very proud of them.”
Wolverine offensive lineman Keonte Cash, dubbed the best lineman to play at Belen by Stuart, will head upstate this fall to play for Florida A&M.
“He’s the best lineman we’ve had in school history,” Stuart said. “He’s relentless and dominating. If he was a few inches taller he would probably be getting looks from Alabama and Miami.”
Kicker and punter Mateo Buraglia signed with Bucknell University while defensive lineman Cristian Garcia and Andres Garcia signed with Malone University. Linebacker and fullback Camilo Padron is headed for Marist College.
Other signings — football: Keonte Cash (Florida A&M), Xavier Hines (FIU), Mateo Buraglia (Bucknell University), Christian Garcia (Malone University), Andres Garcia (Malone University), Camilo Padron (Marist College). Golf: Oscar Cabanas (Fordham University). Soccer: Eduardo Valle (Stony Brook University).
Six Miami Jackson seniors signed with on National Signing Day. Leading the way for the Generals was Miami Herald First-Team All-Dade defensive Back Devondre Powell, who had a slight dilemma before announcing his decision.
With and offer from Boise State University — at 11-2 co-champions of the Mountain West Conference last season — on the table, Powell took a different route as he chose to play for South Carolina State University and signed with the Bulldogs.
The decision was tough, Powell said. But playing time and the recruiting visit helped him make up his decision to join South Carolina State, which finished 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“I chose South Carolina State because I was looking forward to coming in during the summer and playing,” Powell said. He finished his senior year with 81 tackles, six sacks and an interception. “The visit was nice and I really liked the campus.”
The other Jackson players who signed letters of intent Monday were Darius Lee, Robbie Frazier, Jack Holt and Shandler Beaubien. They are headed to Division III, Mayville State University in Mayville, North Dakota.
Jackson’s other first-team All-Dade selection was Christopher Williams-Hall. He remains undecided. He has received interest from Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State, Ohio University, and Kentucky.
Wednesday’s signees were the first for rookie head coach Antonio Brown, who led the Generals to the state semifinals for the first time in 12 years this past season.
“This is a blessing,” Brown said. “Miami Jackson gave me the opportunity to not only coach but to mentor these young men. I am thankful for that.”
After much contemplation, Columbus running back Daryl Chestnut signed a national letter of intent to play at Indiana on Wednesday. Chestnut, who had 1,208 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, was one of three Explorers to sign.
“I like the head coach and I like the Big-10,” Chestnut said. “My visit went well. I couldn’t have asked for a better host.”
Chestnut was torn between picking West Virginia, Indiana or Western Michigan.
As expected, teammate Jesus Wilson signed with Florida State. Wilson, who had already verbally committed to FSU, knew since his sophomore season he wanted to be a Seminole.
“When I took my visit, I felt comfortable,” he said. “Coach told me I needed to work hard.”
Wilson, a wide receiver and cornerback, had 61 catches for 904 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
“It’s a great opportunity and new chapter in my life,” he said. “I’m happy I stayed focused. I did this for my mom.”
Linebacker Jordan Guest signed with Florida International University. Guest, who verbally committed in August, said he felt FIU was the best place for him.
“A couple of schools came late in the running but I knew I wanted to stick with FIU the whole time,” Guest said.
Running back Lorenzo Woodley did not sign on Wednesday.
Northwestern’s football team made a return to the playoffs this past season after missing it for the first time in 20 years.
But coach Stephen Field said the highlight of the season came Wednesday morning.
Northwestern had 17 of its football players sign with colleges at a special ceremony at the school’s library.
“Today was our state championship,” said Field, who led the Bulls to a 9-3 record in his first season. “This is what it’s all about and it’s a dream come true for these kids.”
Eight of the Bulls’ signees signed letters with FBS schools headlined by defensive back and track star Artie Burns, who signed with the University of Miami. Burns, ranked No. 2 overall in Miami-Dade County, had four interceptions this past season and has been the fastest high school hurdler in the nation each of the past two years.
“It’s my hometown team and I knew for a longtime it’s where I wanted to be at,” Burns said. “A day like this means a lot because a lot of us have been together since the 10th grade. There’s a lot of talent at UM and looking forward to accomplishing my goals.”
Running back Darius Tice signed with the University of South Florida. Tice, one of the county’s top rushers, chose the Bulls after originally having committed to Cincinnati. Tice ran for 1,210 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
“I sat down with my parents and decided to stay close to home because I have a very close family,” Tice said. “I visited USF a week ago and I fell in love with the school and my family loved it too.”
The Bearcats did, however, sign another Northwestern player when talented cornerback Aaron Brown signed with Cincinnati.
Tice’s backfield teammate Fabian Johnson signed with Western Michigan.
Offensive lineman Gerald Wright signed with Marshall.
Defensive back Leverick Johnson signed with Western Kentucky.
Strong safety Deandre Coley signed with Arkansas.
Linebacker Darius Redmond signed with Kent State.
Defensive end Marquis Blanchard, who led the county in sacks with 24, signed with Howard University.
More signees included linebacker Tim Salter, defensive back Germarlon Hollingshead, defensive linemen Yonel Henry and Larmond Braxton with Atlanta Preparatory School.
“Our whole secondary and both starting tailbacks went Division-I and that’s exciting,” Field said. “It’s a great thing to see for these kids and their families.”
Andre C. Fernandez
Anthony Walker Jr. showed up at Monsignor Pace all decked out in purple — including a purple bowtie. And, no he wasn’t going to a Prince concert. Walker Jr., a wide receiver/defensive back who played both ways for the Spartans last season and was known as the quarterback of the defense, was wearing the colors of Northwestern University, which is where he signed up to go.
Walker Jr., whose father Anthony Sr. is the offensive coordinator, committed to the Wildcats last summer and never waivered on his commitment.
“They contacted me last spring, took my visit then and was sold from the start,” said Walker Jr., a 4.7 GPA student and two-time first team All-Dade selection. “I fell in love with the program, the school and the coaches right away. Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald has a great thing going up there and they just won their first bowl game in 50 years so I’m really excited about this opportunity.”
Four other Spartans signed scholarships as well, three with major schools. Linebacker Bobby Jones, the team’s leading tackler signed with Northern Illinois while defensive lineman Jamar Simpkins and cornerback Logan Oce both committed to Western Michigan. Quarterback Benton Voke will take his talents to Wingate University in North Carolina.
“I actually committed to them last summer but when they made the coaching change last December, I wasn’t sure,” said Jones speaking of when Dave Doeren left for North Carolina State. “But when they hired coach [Rod] Carey and kept the linebackers coach [Kevin Kane] who had recruited me, that’s what kept me from looking anyplace else.”
Other signings: Bobby Jones, Northern Illinois; Jamar Simpkins, Western Michigan; Logan Oce, Western Michigan; and Benton Voke, Wingate (N.C) University.
As Central coach Telly Lockette addressed his athletes and others gathered on Signing Day at the school’s library, he asked those listening one question: “What are you going to do when opportunity knocks?”
After coming off a state championship season, seven of his players answered by signing their official letters of intent on Wednesday morning in front of friends, teammates and family members.
“These are the moments when you are most proud of your kids as they sign on the dotted line,” Lockette said.
The big question heading into Signing Day was which school would receive the services of Rockets cornerback Da’Wan Hunte.
With caps from Miami and North Carolina State on the table, Hunte’s little brother, Dante’, ran up to the table and handed his older brother a Purdue hat, marking his decision to become a Boilermaker.
“When I took my visit, I just felt like I was at home,” Hunte said. “As soon as left the campus, I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Hunte, the Rockets’ team captain, wavered the night before as he weighed his different offers, but ultimately stuck with his decision to go to Purdue.
“I talked it over with my parents and we analyzed everything and I decided that Purdue was the best school for me and my family,” Hunte said. “I want to take care of my business in the classroom and make my impact on the field right away.”
Fellow defensive back Ahmad Thomas (Oklahoma), linebacker Devante Duclos (Western Kentucky), and kicker Emilio Nadelman (University of South Florida) have all begun taking classes at their respective schools.
Outside linebacker Marqez Hodge had his mind made up long before Signing Day and is headed for Syracuse.
Other signings: Emilio Nadelman (USF), De’Vante Duclos (Western Kentucky), Ahmad Thomas (Oklahoma), Da’Wan Hunte (Purdue), Marqez Hodge (Syracuse), Devyn Reid (Howard University), and Christopher Herise (South Carolina State).
Thirteen Hialeah seniors took ink to paper around family, coaches, and friends.
Coach Mark Berman was able to take a perennial power in District 13-8A, and pump out college talent at a rate that was only second to the Hialeah High team of 2011 (17 Signees).
Players such as linebackers George Williams, Jon Rodriguez, and defensive end Ishmal Aurismand signed. Williams and Rodriguez will head to Louisiana Lafayette, and Aurismand will head to Middle Tennessee State University. For Rodriguez this day seemed more of a dream than reality.
“After not being able to play my sophomore and junior year, coach had never given up on me, and he just said keep playing hard and that big offer will come.”
While academics kept Rodriguez out of the spotlight, his 6-2 frame could not keep him under the radar, as he will likely share playing time with his partner in crime for the Ragin Cajuns.
Other Hialeah signees: OL Nathaniel Alzate, Ventura College; LB Jon Rodriguez, ULL; DL Rodrick Stevens, Milford Prep; CB Ronald Washington, Ventura College; LB George Williams, ULL; DL Stevenson Jochim, Ridgewater College; OL Jamel Ribatta, Ventura College; DE Jelifere Alphonse, Ridgewater College; DE Ishmal Aurismand, Middle Tennessee State; RB Cesar Meneses, Santa Monica College; DE Daniel Ortega, Webber International University; DL Paul Guzman, Ventura College; and DL Jerrol Mobely, Northwood College.
Jamal Carter has known for a while where he would be playing his college football.
He finally got to make that decision official Wednesday morning when he put pen to paper and signed his letter of intent to accept a football scholarship to the University of Miami.
The hard-hitting, 6-2, 210-pound safety from Southridge, who originally made a verbal commitment to the Hurricanes on July 26, 2012, along with fellow defensive back Lamar Robbins (USF) pledged their football-playing services on National Signing Day.
“I’m excited to get it over with and to be a part of the UM family, the legacy,” says Carter, who finished his senior season with 73 tackles and an interception. “I’m just ready.”
Carter took visits to LSU and Oklahoma after his commitment to UM, but neither Les Miles nor Mike Stoops could sway him from joining Al Golden and his staff, although Carter says he did contemplate LSU a bit.
“I didn’t really want to go there, but I had hopes of going to LSU,” says Carter, a four-star prospect as the 21st-best safety in the nation, according to Rivals.com. “But then I thought about it, I weighed everything out, I have family down here and I have a lot of things down here, so I decided to stay in Miami.”
He enters a defensive backfield at UM filled with youth that he’ll compete against for playing time. Six returning defensive backs at Miami will either be sophomores or redshirt freshmen next season — two of them safeties.
A potential spot in the lineup could open up for him with the departure of Vaughn Telemaque, a fifth-year senior safety last season. If he can’t find his way onto the field right away, two more seniors senior safeties will be heading out after the 2013 season in Kacy Rodgers and A.J. Highsmith.
Southridge coach Lamont Green says Carter could see playing time from day one at UM.
“I think he can make an immediate impact,” he says. “He has that skill level. He’s a player that you would say is college-ready right now.”
Carter hopes that the additions of he and Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns, along with the heavy influx of defensive backs in the 2012 class, could transform the Hurricane secondary, which has been troublesome in recent years, into a newfound strength of the team
“No fly zone” is what Carter calls it.
He hopes to report to Coral Gables in May.
Carter wasn’t the only Southridge defensive back to sign with an in-state college Wednesday.
Robbins, also a four-star prospect, according to Rivals, inked with USF after committing to new coach Willie Taggart nearly two weeks ago on his official visit to the Tampa campus. Heading into Signing Day, he’s one of two four-stars in the Bulls’ recruiting class that Taggart has scrambled to put together since the firing of Skip Holtz.
“Coach Taggart, he’s real fired up,” says Robbins, who had only been playing defensive back for a year-and-a-half. “He’s a young coach. He’s real into it, so I can see the passion in him.”
He chose the Bulls over Louisville, and he says even though he was already committed to USF, Louisville coaches were still trying to contact him last night to change his mind.
Green sees a bright future for his two signees to come out of his first senior class at Southridge.
“They’re big-time athletes, but they’re better people,” he says. “Today’s a big stepping stone in their life.”
Norland’s National Signing Day ceremony had a special guest star.
San Diego Chargers linebacker Antwan Barnes, a Vikings’ alumnus and FIU standout, had his high school jersey retired.
Barnes was a member of the 2002 Norland state championship team — the first in the school’s history.
Barnes offered some advice to the five players signing Wednesday.
“Whatever you do pledge devotion to everything you do and just have fun,” Barnes told the players.
The five Norland players anchored one of the best defenses in Norland football history signed their college letters of intent Wednesday morning.
Two of Norland’s five signees — linebackers Trayvon Williams and Akeem Barton — chose to follow Barnes’ college path signing with FIU.
“It was a very special time for us and coming from where I was having never played linebacker, I’m just really excited,” Barton said. “I love the coaches FIU has and they are real focused on academics as well as football.”
Star defensive end Paul James signed with the University of Illinois, but had his papers faxed to the school by coach Daryle Heidelburg because James was in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday night, James participated in the USA vs. The World All-Star game.
Linebacker William Townsend signed with Tulane University. Defensive back Shefique Neloms signed with Prairie View A&M in Houston.
The group was part of a three-year run that included a state championship and perfect 15-0 season in 2011 and a state runner-up finish in 2010.
“It was a great experience from when we went and lost to when we won a state championship,” Neloms said. “I feel very blessed to be able to have a chance to play at the next level. I may not be signing at a huge Division I school, but I’m extremely grateful to be here and have this opportunity with my teammates. When I get there, I’m just going to work hard and do everything I can to be successful.”
Andre C. Fernandez
Friends, Family and classmates packed into Palmetto’s auditorium early to see the Panthers largest signing class in over a decade.
“This is a great step in the right direction,” said head football coach Matt Dixon of his eight signees. “I’m really happy for the kids and for the future of our football program.”
Wednell Dunn, a 6-4, 210-pound linebacker for the Panthers signed his letter of intent to Wake Forest.
“There is so much I can benefit from going to Wake,” said Dunn, second-team All-Dade pick. “The education, the ACC and playing against big schools. I hope to be a leader of that team one day.”
Another leader of the Panthers this season was teammate Javon Hadley, 5-11, 170-pound cornerback who signed with the University of Connecticut.
“UConn was the perfect fit for me,” Hadley said. “I’m looking forward to the new experience and meeting my new football family.”
Darien Anderson, all-star linebacker, to Alcorn State. Cornell Gilmore, lineman and district champion wrestler, signed with Northern Michigan. Isiah Scott, running back with team high GPA 3.92, signed with Glenville State.
Rounding off the signing class was offensive lineman Malik Avis, defensive lineman Dwight Pruitt and cornerback Troy Hamilton who have all signed with Edward Waters College in Jacksonville.
Six Gulliver seniors, three apiece from the gridiron and pitch, signed letters of intent, but one athlete was conspicuously absent.
The crop of Raiders was headlined by running back Bo Ellis, who amassed consecutive 1,200-yard seasons in his junior and senior years. Ellis sports a 3.6 GPA and will attend Harvard in the fall.
“It was an easy decision for me,” Ellis said. “It only took me like a week to decide. I mean, it’s Harvard.”
“He is an incredible kid who has accomplished and overcome so much,” said Gulliver coach Earl Sims.
However, Raider linebacker Stacy Thomas — a four-star recruit who has recently visited Texas Tech and Kansas State — did not announce his intentions Wednesday. School officials said he is still weighing his options and has not set a timetable to announce his choice.
“Whoever gets Stacy Thomas is going to get a stud,” Sims said.
Grant Siegel and Jordi Dalmau will both anchor the Colgate offensive line in the coming years.
As Gulliver’s girls soccer team prepares for its second consecutive state finals appearance later this week, three of its top players shared the stage Wednesday. Nicole Harris (Troy), Kai-Lin Hernandez (High Point) and Sofia Trujillo (San Diego State) each signed their letters of intent.
Carol City’s Simeon Thomas will be attending Louisiana-Lafayette.
“Louisiana-Lafayette was a great environment,” said the 6-3 safety, Thomas. “My mom and my dad influenced me. They did not find out where I was going until two days ago. I kind of kept it a secret.”
Cornerback Jalen Alexander will be joining Thomas at Louisiana-Lafayette. Alexander, who has a 4.0 GPA, will be attending on an academic scholarship and majoring in criminal justice.
Athlete Edward Rolle is going to Western Michigan. Defensive linemen Aaron Thomas will be attending Dodge City Community College.
Quarterback Akeem Jones did not sign Wednesday morning. “He might sign with Syracuse tomorrow,” said Chiefs coach Harold Barnwell.