Pinecrest Seniors to Continue Athletic Careers in College
Capping a breakthrough season on the gridiron, nine Pinecrest football players signed national letters of intent on Wednesday to continue their education and playing careers at the college level.
Thousands of high school athletes throughout the country made the same commitments on college football's official National Signing Day. Pinecrest celebrated the occasion at a ceremony held in the school auditorium before about 100 fellow athletes, coaches, family members and friends.
The Pinecrest pep band participated in the festive occasion. Patriot head coach Chris Metzger and each of the players spoke during the approximately one-hour program. Parents and other family members stood by as the future collegians signed the letters of intent.
"These kids are blessed that they got great support at home and they're blessed to be in a community that supports all athletics," Metzger said afterward. "And we just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be here and put the foundation down. They understand how hard it's going to be to balance the academics and athletics."
The football team went 7-5 last season in Metzger's second year. The Patriots earned their first trip to the state playoffs since 1996. The seven wins were as many as they won the previous five years combined. The highlights of the season included consecutive victories over Scotland County, Richmond Senior and Hoke County, all teams the Patriots had not beaten since the 1990s.
The foundation established by the new coaching staff and players the past two years created an interest from college coaches that did not previously exist.
The day after the season ended with a playoff loss at Hoggard, all the Patriot coaches got together and began a review of the film of all of the games. They marked the highlights and ended up sending over 200 DVDs along with copies of the players' transcripts to colleges.
Wide receiver Jarrin Wooten, tight end, Spencer Bishop and defensive back, Josh Scales each received multiple offers before making their decisions.
Wooten made his recent verbal commitment official when he signed to attend Winston-Salem State. An all-conference basketball player as a junior, he also plans to pursue that sport with the Rams.
Wooten drew a lot of attention from college coaches with his combination of 6-foot-5 height, speed and sure hands after playing just one season as a wide receiver. He finished up with 27 catches for 501 yards and five touchdowns.
In that short amount of time, he became Winston's No. 1 prospect. He turned down a number of other Div. I offers to stay close to home.
Like a number of the Patriots, getting an opportunity to play football in college did not even seem to be a possibility until last season.
"Never in a million years," Wooten said. "You always think it would be nice if it happens. But you always feel it's a long shot you never expect to happen."
As a quarterback, Scales engineered the wins over Scotland, Richmond and Hoke. He was also an all-conference basketball player last year and earned that honor in football in the fall. A college prospect as both a quarterback and defensive back, he was on the way back from a weekend visit to Kentucky Wesleyan on Monday when he discussed his choices that included UNC-Pembroke with Metzger on the phone.
"Coach Metzger and I were talking about it and that's when I made my decision," he said.
Playing a part in Scales' acceptance of an offer from Div. II Fayetteville State was making it possible for his family to watch him play.
During Wednesday's program, Metzger recalled Bishop as a 172-pound athlete when he first met him in early 2007. Now at 6-3, 215 pounds, the Patriot tight end and long-snapper turned down several scholarship offers to walk on at Wake Forest.
"I'm a preferred walk-on there so I'm going to have to earn my scholarship," he said. "They red-shirt all their freshmen. They actually needed some tight ends. Hopefully when I get into the weight-lifting program there, I'll be able to grow a little bit more. At least I'll be on an even playing field with the other freshmen."
A fourth Patriot staying close to home is Jeremy Harris who signed with Div. III Greensboro College. The unofficial team chaplain of the Patriots, the defensive lineman was described by his coach as a player whose opponent often out-weighed him by 100 pounds. He plays the piano, guitar and drums, and will be pursuing a career in music.
"I'm going there to play inside linebacker," Harris said. "The team welcomed me and we all just formed a quick brotherhood with each other. That's pretty much what helped me make my decision."
Zavione Thompson plans to study computer science at Fond du Lac Community College in Cloquet, Minn., and later pursue a career in the military. He is one of five Patriot seniors, accepting scholarship offers to play football and improve their academic standing at junior colleges in Minnesota.
Metzger established the connection when he coached at Lely High School in Naples, Fla.
Thompson's mother, Jackie, listened as Metzger described the team leader in total tackles as a person who exemplifies leadership.
"It made me proud," she said, "and it made me realize he's listening to the things we instill at home and in church."
Defensive lineman Dameir Adams and running back Anthony McLean will be teammates of Thompson at Fond du Lac. Offensive lineman Sam Cole and defensive back Tony Allbrooks committed to the highly-ranked junior college football program at Rochester Community and Technical College, an opponent of Fond du Lac.
"This day is very special," said McLean who aspires to be an orthodontist. "I never thought I would play college football, but since Coach Metzger came, he gave us all this opportunity. I feel really blessed. I've been small all my life and my mother told me never to let anybody tell you that you can't do something. So I'm going to go out and show everybody what I can do."
Each of the players heading for Minnesota is going with the anticipation of an adventure that will eventually take them to a four-year college. Cole was also attracted by the structure he feels Rochester will provide.
"I like the fact that your day is pretty well planned out as far as workouts, classes, practices and tutoring," he said. "That's going to help me stay more on top of what I have to do in school."
The nine signees were four more than the program produced in 2008. Metzger hopes the progress will be an inspiration to the underclassmen in the audience.
"There are good opportunities for these kids, and I think this is going to motivate them," the coach said. "To me they're all special. What it's about is giving them a chance."
Contact Charlie Bergmann by e-mail at cbergmann @nc.rr.com.
More like this story