Local athletes sign with colleges

The athletic talent pool continues to flourish throughout north Hillsborough, and east and central Pasco.

Zephyrhills High’s Antwione Sims will play football for the U.S Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He missed the 2016 season after tearing his ACL last March.
(Courtesy of Antwione Sims)

Dozens of local high school athletes signed their letters of intent (LOI) on Feb. 1 to various colleges and universities as part of National Signing Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in February.

Once again, schools in our coverage area were well-represented.

Wiregrass Ranch High School led the way with 13 signings, followed by Land O’ Lakes High with nine. Other high schools, including Gaither and Steinbrenner, featured a handful of signings.

While Zephyrhills High had just one signing, it was arguably the most memorable.

Bursting with emotions and tear-filled eyes, senior running back/safety Antwione Sims signed his LOI to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The day signaled a redemptive moment for Sims, who missed his entire 2016 senior season after tearing his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) last March.

A trio of Freedom High School athletes signed to various colleges on Feb. 1. From left: Kalijahe Spann (Warner University), Megan Clark (Tennesee Tech University) and Tyler Bray (Maryville College).
(Courtesy of Freedom High School)

Oftentimes, football players — even those as talented as Sims —have athletic scholarships withdrawn after a serious injury, particularly from Division I programs.

But, Navy upheld its offer.

“It’s a blessing to have (this) opportunity,” Sims said, “because not everyone has that…”

Putting pen to paper marked the end of a “long journey” for the 5-foot-11, 208-pound gridiron star.

It, too, signals the beginning of a new one.

“It’s not about the next four years,” Sims said, “it’s about the next 40.”

Sims, one of the most dynamic athletes in Pasco County, was one of just four football players from the county to sign with a Division I football program.

The others were Wiregrass Ranch quarterback/kicker Chris Faddoul (Florida A&M University) and defensive lineman Jason Winston (Stetson University), and Wesley Chapel safety Ellrie Allen (Florida A&M University).

Four athletes from Wesley Chapel High School participated in National Signing Day on Feb. 1. From left: Bailey Hern (Saint Leo University), Lauren Campoe (Ave Maria University), Jacob Thomas (Mars Hill College) and Ellrie Allen (Florida A&M University).
(Courtesy of Wesley Chapel High School)

Sims, though, is the most high-profile prospect of the group.

At one point, the consensus three-star recruit had scholarship offers from nearly a dozen schools.

His recruitment picked up steam after he rushed for a school-record 2,093 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2015.

Despite that production, he won’t likely play in Navy’s offensive backfield.

Instead, he’s expected to contribute in their defensive backfield, as a safety.

Sims noted he started closely following Navy’s football program “ever since they started recruiting me.”

On the surface, he made a solid selection.

Navy, renowned for its vaunted triple-option offense, went 9-5 in 2016. Under coach Ken Niumatalolo, they’ve had a winning season in eight of the past nine years.

Sims’ choice is about more than football, however.

“I feel like making this decision will allow me to set myself up for life,” he said.

A roundup of signings of athletes in our coverage area:
Gaither
Football
Decalon Brooks—Florida State University
Estefano Feliciano—Old Dominion University (Virginia)

Soccer
Ben Hickson—Florida College
David Garzon—Florida College

Softball
Kasey Heslin—Pasco-Hernando State College

Freedom
Basketball
Megan Clark—Tennessee Tech University

Football
Kalijahe Spann—Warner University (Florida)

Golf
Tyler Bray—Maryville College (Tennessee)

Land O’ Lakes
Baseball
Troy Klemm—Palm Beach Atlantic University
Max Law—University of North Florida
McCabe Sargent—Saint Leo University
Dustin Harris—St. Petersburg College

Football
Spencer Childress—Lyon College (Arkansas)

Soccer
Devyn Cabral—Erskine College (South Carolina)
Haley Eckel—Florida Southern College

Cross Country
Skylen Acuna—Pasco-Hernando State College

Steinbrenner
Basketball
Mary Katherine Miller—Hillsborough Community College

Football
Devon Connors—U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado)
Noah Ruggles—University of North Carolina

Soccer
Claire Morrison—Stetson University

Softball
Emmalee Jansen—University of Tampa

Sunlake
Football
Tyler Peretti—Southeastern University (Florida)

Softball
Casey Gottschall—Broward College (Florida)
Shelby Lansing—Southeastern University
Haley Kirinsky—Flagler College (Florida)

Wharton
Softball
Mackenzie Allen—University of Tampa

Volleyball
Kathryn Attar—Yale University (Connecticut)
Alexandria Schneider—Florida College

Wesley Chapel
Football
Jacob Thomas—Mars Hill University (North Carolina)
Ellrie Allen—Florida A&M University

Soccer
Lauren Campoe—Ave Maria University (Florida)
Bailey Hern—Saint Leo University

Wiregrass Ranch
Golf
Morgan Power—King University (Tennessee)

Football
Chris Faddoul—Florida A&M University
Jason Winston—Stetson University

Tennis
Noah Makarome—University of Pennsylvania

Soccer
Connor Nixon—Presbyterian College (South Carolina)
Erin Brenner—Huntingdon College (Alabama)
Ysabelle Borgstadt—Andrew College (Georgia)
Sydney Chase—Saint Leo University
Maddie Moore—Shaw University (North Carolina)
John Pease—Jacksonville University (Florida)

Softball
Alexis Ridolph—Hillsborough Community College
Samantha Hiley—Edward Waters College (Florida)
Jaime Valenta—St. John River State College (Florida)

Zephyrhills High
Football
Antwione Sims—U.S. Naval Academy (Maryland)

Zephyrhills Christian Academy
Football
Serion Bellamy—Shorter University​ (Georgia)

Published February 8, 2017

 

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