Published Thursday, February 07, 2013
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN and DOUG GORMAN
Eight football players from five high schools — all headed to Division I programs.
Take a bow, Coweta County.
And that was just the meaty part of Wednesday’s National Signing Day festivities locally. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, local high school seniors in baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer and golf took their turns — pen in hand — while inking letters of intent to play athletics at the college level.
There aren’t many better feelings for a high school coach.
“It’s always bittersweet,” said Northgate head football coach Tommy Walburn, who had three Vikings sign with major Division-I programs on Wednesday. “You are happy for them, because all kids who play football dream of playing at the next level, and these kids are going to play Division I. It gets no bigger than that.”
Brandon Facyson, who graduated in December with a 3.95 GPA with hopes of becoming a heart surgeon, was already on campus at Virginia Tech on Wednesday taking classes for the spring semester.
Talent, character and integrity were among the majority of the group which also included two future players at service academies, one at an Ivy League school and another pair to Georgia, upping the number of Coweta County players in Athens to a full hand of fingers next fall.
At Northgate, in addition to Facyson, two more Vikings shared the moment on campus after spending their careers lining up side-by-side on defense.
Tackle DeAndre “Moose” Johnson became part of Georgia’s signing class with Newnan’s Tray Matthews while defensive end Sean Spencer capped off a trifecta of family members to play athletics for the service academies. (See related stories).
“It’s great when you see a young man develop physically and mentally,” said Walburn. “You take them from being little boys to young men.”
Along with the official word that Northgate graduate Alex Lakes had become part of West Georgia’s 2013 signing class after transferring from Air Force, it was a busy day for the Vikings.
But it was a trend felt throughout the area.
A group of nine signees at East Coweta included football running back/cornerback Dee Godfrey, who signed with Georgia Southern after rushing for 1,180 yards and 18 touchdowns en route to earning Region 3-AAAAAA and The Newnan Times-Herald Offensive Player of the Year.
“The coaches were really straight and upfront as far as how much they throught you could play,” said Godfrey, who expects to play A-back in the Eagles’ triple-option. “The town is a lot like Coweta County and they have great fans. It’s a great fit.”
East Coweta’s signees also included three Indian soccer players with Division I programs and three baseball players getting ready for spring seasons. Golfers Ji Eun Baik (Mississippi State) and Ryan Tobin (St. Francis), both of whom inked scholarships in November, were also honored.
Twins Conner and Ian Antley — who combined for 62 goals and 21 assists last season — both signed with Mercer while goalkeeper Luke Oesterle, who had nine shutouts in 2012, inked a letter of intent with Georgia State.
Indian baseball signees included first baseman John Banks with Kennesaw State and pitchers Zach McCurry (Darton College) and Brandon Ruston (Reinhardt College). All three are among a large junior class that will be pressed into action this spring.
(To view photos from the East Coweta signings, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports for the Photo Gallery.)
Newnan High had nearly a dozen athletes either on hand for signings or to take official photos prominently led by the return of Tray Matthews. The standout safety/wide receiver, who was named Region 3-AAAAAA and Newnan Times-Herald Most Valuable Player, made a trip home from Athens after graduating in December and enrolling early at the University of Georgia. (See related story).
He wasn’t alone, however, among football Cougars.
Offensive lineman David Raschen signed with Mercer’s football program giving coach Bobby Lamb a Coweta County recruit for the second consecutive year. The Bears will compete as a NCAA Division I FCS non-scholarship program in the Pioneer League.
Raschen joins Northgate graduate Payton Usher, who has worked his way near the top of the depth chart at running back according to Vikings head coach Tommy Walburn.
Meanwhile, Cougar offensive lineman Jamal Carlisle will be reunited with former quarterback Nick Smith after signing with Reinhardt and former longtime ECHS head coach Danny Cronic.
Both schools will play their inaugural games against each other on Aug. 31.
Xavier Phillips signed his letter of intent to play at the University of Cumberlands.
Four other players will help jump start West Georgia Tech’s NJCAA new program, just the second located in the state.
Knights head coach Walter Dunson signed Newnan standouts safety Darrell Morrow, wide receiver Traon Moss, linebacker Maurice White and running back Quinton Dix.
It’s always a really special day when players sign,” said Newnan head football coach Mike McDonald. “It means we have had some really good players come through our program. It shows the younger players if they work hard they can get to the next level too.”
Newnan’s honorees also included senior basketball player Tiara Calloway, who signed with Alabama State in November. Cougars’ All-County soccer senior Tyler Heard inked a scholarship with Southern Poly in Marietta and girls lacrosse senior Hunter Harrison signed with St. Andrews (N.C.).
Area private schools also celebrated athletes signing Division I scholarships. In addition to football players Candler Rich (The Heritage School, Yale) and Drew Gibson (Trinity Christian, Air Force), Landmark Christian senior Lindy Long signed with Air Force’s cross-country program.