More than 50 local high school athletes signed their letters of intent (LOI) earlier this month to various colleges and universities as part of National Signing Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in February.
From The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, Steinbrenner High and Wiregrass Ranch High each had the most signings with 10 apiece, followed by Sunlake High (seven) and Wesley Chapel High (six). Bishop McLaughlin, Carrollwood Day School, Cypress Creek, Freedom, Land O’ Lakes, and Zephyrhills Christian Academy also were well-represented as part of the signing day festivities.
Locals signed to play at the next level for the following sports — acrobatics & tumbling, baseball, cheerleading, cross-country, fencing, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball and track.
Here is a closer look at some of the notable signees and their high schools:
Jordan Almasy, Wesley Chapel, softball (University of Central Florida) – The 5-foot-7 right-hander has etched her name in Wesley Chapel softball history — eclipsing school records for strikeouts in a game, strikeouts in a season, pitching wins, and innings pitched her junior year. Through three varsity seasons, she has compiled 31 wins, a 1.99 earned run average, 365 strikeouts and a .203 opponent batting average in 306.1 innings pitched. Also, Almasy was a freshman ace in the Wildcats softball program’s first ever winning season, in 2017.
Tony Bartalo, Gaither, football (Bethune-Cookman University) — The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal-caller put together a senior campaign to remember, ranking second in the state in passing yards (3,194 yards) and guiding the Cowboys to a 12-2 mark and the Class 6A state semifinals. Bartalo’s other passing figures were likewise impressive — 62.6% completion rate and 50 total touchdowns with just 14 interceptions. Bartalo’s teammate, linebacker Chance Coleman, also signed to play Division I football, at Florida International University.
Ethan Jones, Wesley Chapel, baseball — The 6-foot-5 lefthander posted a 1.64 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched last season, guiding the Wildcats to an appearance in the Class 6A regional tournament. Jones, ranked one of the state’s top 200 baseball prospects by Perfect Game, also broke out on the travel ball circuit — part of the 2019 Perfect Game Super 25 national championship team and named to the WWBA (World Wood Bat Association) World Championship All-Tournament Team.
Malik Jones, Zephyrhills Christian, football (Florida Atlantic University) — The 6-foot-2, 328-pound Jones starred defensively as a nose tackle at Zephyrhills Christian, but is expected to start his Division I college football career as an offensive lineman — likely at guard or center. He ranked third in Florida in sacks (26) in 2019, despite being double-teamed on almost every play. A consensus three-star recruit, Jones held offers from University of Southern Mississippi and Troy University, among others. Aside from his gridiron play, Jones also is a state champion wrestler, winning the Class 1A heavyweight division title in 2019.
Malcolm Lewis, Wiregrass Ranch, soccer (University of North Florida) —The 6-foot team captain midfielder helped the Bulls to four straight conference championships and is a two-time All-Conference first team selection with more than 60 career goals, 45 assists and counting. In addition to prep soccer, Lewis has been training with the Tampa Bay Rowdies professional USL (United Soccer League) team as a potential future prospect.
Cooper Smith, Freedom, golf (University of North Florida) — The four-year letterman capped off his senior campaign with a 16th place individual finish at the Class 2A FHSAA boys golf state championships, firing a 77 in both 18-hole rounds. Smith, a three-time All-District and with 15 junior wins to his name, was a freshman on Freedom’s second state finals appearance in program history, in 2016. He joins a North Florida signing class that also includes Mitchell High’s Nick Gabrelcik, a Trinity native.
Liina Winborn, Sunlake, cross-country (University of Florida) — In inking with the University of Florida, Winborn became Sunlake cross-country’s first Division I signee in program history. The decorated distance runner set several school records, claimed multiple conference and district individual titles, and earned fourth-place and sixth-place individual finishes the past two years at the 3A state cross-country championships. (At the state meets, she clocked an 18:11.16 in 2019 and 18:06.57 in 2018). Winborn also is a two-time Sunshine Athletic Conference (SAC) East girls’ cross-country runner of the year and defending girls track runner of the year.
Here is a roundup of all known high school athlete signings in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area:
Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School
Adam Berry — Pasco-Hernando State College
Marcus Bezerra — Southern Virginia University (Buena Vista, Virginia)
Carrollwood Day School
EJ James — Drew University (Madison, New Jersey)
Emma Architetto — Rollins College
Matt Snyder — Saint Leo University
Carter Corrao — Lee University (Cleveland, Tennessee)
Abigail Murphy — Saint Leo University
Anna Margetis — Daytona State College
Cooper Smith — University of North Florida
Kylie Coffin — University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
Ellis Erickson — Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, Illinois)
Niyah Pope – Eastern Florida State College
Chloe Potts — Florida Southern College
Emily Kochan — Saint Leo University
Gabby Marshall — Pasco-Hernando State College
Tony Bartalo — Bethune-Cookman University
Chance Coleman — Florida International University
Deveon Knighton — Iowa Central Community College
Land O’ Lakes
Chris Fergueson — Lake Sumter State College
Ethan Stephens — Polk State College
Brooke Stanley — St. Petersburg College
Jacon Schwarz — Barton College (Wilson, North Carolina)
Roberto Valentin — Webber International University
Luke Scheid — Flagler College
Gavin Kennedy — Saint Leo University
Drew Knobl — Southeastern University
Albert La Red — Saint Leo University
Liina Winborn — University of Florida
Michael Blackwood — Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, Connecticut)
Donovan Garcia — Flagler College
Griffin Garcia — Flagler College
Brayden Heidel — Saint Leo University
Matthew Adcock — University of West Florida
Dean Patterson — University of Findlay (Findlay, Ohio)
Grady Frey — Huntingdon College
Sierra Carter — College of Central Florida
Mikayla Johnson — Nova Southeastern University
Frankie Raeckers — Florida Southern College
Ethan Jones — University of West Virginia (Morgantown, West Virginia)
Noah Leonard — Saint Leo University
Jordan Almasy — University of Central Florida
Allison Fraley — Pasco-Hernando State College
Morgan Herndon — Lake Sumter State College
Aubrey McLeod — University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, Maryland)
Acrobatics & Tumbling
Kenley Karlon — King University (Bristol, Tennessee)
Derek Baker — Florida Southern College
Cody Costa — Limestone College (Gaffney, South Carolina)
Chase Wills — Miami-Dade College
Layla Gilyard — Saint Leo University
Macie Pickard — Saint Leo University
Connor Lenczden — Stetson University
Avery Damjanovic — Governors State University (University Park, Illinois)
Kylee Ehman — Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Indiana)
Malcolm Lewis —University of North Florida
Zephyrhills Christian Academy
Malik Jones — Florida Atlantic University
Published February 19, 2020