FLEMING ISLAND – For their softball prowess of a state title in 2017 and a runnerup finish by a 1-0 score off an errant bounce at third base, Oakleaf High’s softball team has been one of the top …
FLEMING ISLAND – For their softball prowess of a state title in 2017 and a runnerup finish by a 1-0 score off an errant bounce at third base, Oakleaf High’s softball team has been one of the top nationally ranked teams in Florida behind the power and grit of third baseman Baylee Goddard.
At St. Johns Country Day School, pitcher Brianna Enter, a leading strikeout hurler for the Lady Spartans, will take her game to Florida rival Florida State University, the 2018 national champions, with her signing on Wed., Feb. 6 on the SJCDS campus.
Goddard, who, early in her high school career, issued a verbal commit to the powerhouse program at the University of Florida; twice NCAA champions-2014 and 2015 with eight appearances in the Women’s College World Series, offers the Gators a rock of defense at the hot corner plus a powerpacked bat.
Goddard and a strong contingency of softball teammates; pitcher Madisyn Davis, Cambria Arturo and twins Caitlynn and Jazmine Lamug will sign Fri., Feb. 8 in a separate ceremony from the Wednesday signing day of football, soccer and volleyball for the Knights’ program.
Davis, heading to the University of Central Florida, and Arturo, staying close to home at Jacksonville University, have been the strike force pitching duo for coach Christina Thompson the past two years with graduate Kelsey Sweatt, now at University of West Florida, the start of a annual hard-pitching attack by the Lady Knights. Both UCF and JU lost in the early rounds of their respective conference tournaments last year.
Also in softball, St. Johns sends catcher Linsey Arnett to NAIA-Southeastern University (ranked 22nd in preseason polls) with infielder Maddie Wilkes, also the soccer team goalie the past two years, accepting an appointment to the the United States Military Academy at West Point. Southeastern has a four year streak of 40-plus wins and four berths in the NAIA national tournament.
Buoyed by a seventh straight soccer title, a football region playoff berth, a softball state runnerup finish and a stellar field of cross country athletes, Clay County can be quite impressed with the array of college signees that was set to ink the dotted line on Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent signing day.
Soccer state champions St. Johns Country Day School’s formidable machine of title providers lost a handful of stellar players to major college teams last year, but seniors Kamy Loustau and Payton Walton continue the tradition with Loustau headed to Ivy League Princeton University and Walton heading to NAIA-Thomas University in Georgia.
Princeton, ranked 21st nationally, battled to an 11-4-2 overall record last year in NCAA Division I play before winning the Ivy League title over Pennsylvania 1-0. The Lady Tigers lost a 3-0 match against Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA championship tournament, the 13th appearance for Princeton in the tournament with 10 Ivy League titles.
Tops in the football talks was Oakleaf High running back Keshawn King, who signed earlier to play at Virginia Tech. The second major prospect is Fleming Island High’s tight end Sam Snyder, who entertained a ton of offers, but will sign to play at Baylor University in Texas. Baylor offers Snyder an explosive offensive scheme (441.7 yards per game) with the Bears housing a sophomore quarterback that threw for nearly 400 yards in the Bears’ 45-38 win over Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl in December. Baylor went from 1-11 to 7-6 with the bowl win under second year coach Matt Rhule, a Penn State graduate and former linebacker.
From Keystone Heights, big Dan Dodd, a 6’-6” strongman that played both sides of the line of scrimmage, will sign to play at Furman University while line mate Josh Hughes will sign for Stetson University (8-2 in 2018). Furman was co-champions of the Southern Conference last year at 6-4 overall, the 14th time Furman has won the title.
Orange Park offensive lineman James Rhodes will also head to Stetson to join older brother Joshua Rhodes, a sophomore, with wide receiver Terrance Johnson bringing his speed game to Dodge City Community College.
In cross country, Ridgeview High’s Joel Nesi and Keith Kelley ran side-by-side nearly all season with both Nesi getting a state meet berth and Kelley just out of the top 16 at 24th in the tough region 1-2A championships; a stronghold of Bolles running. Nesi will sign to continue running at Flagler College in St. Augustine, an NCAA Division II powerhouse, while Kelley takes his legs to Florida Southern, also NCAA Division II. Both Flagler and Florida Southern have had recent berths in the national championship races in Division II.
Two key members of the Ridgeview High soccer season of 2018; a region finals finish under coach Paul Tomaro, will continue in college with goalie Adam Mineo heading to Warner University in south Florida and lead scorer Miguel Ortiz heading to Kentucky Christian.
Ridgeview football’s end of season surprises; upsets of Baker County and Menendez, probably got some extra looks at the Panther lineup for college consideration. Quarterback Tyler Huff leads a strong group of signees with the record-setting leader heading to Presbyterian College, an FCS school, with speed back Jaiden Turner going to Wheeling University. Wheeling was unbeaten in 2018. Defensive specialist Odijuan Whitfield heads to Troy University in football-strong Alabama. Troy finished 10-3 last year with a 42-32 Dollar General Bowl win over Buffalo in 2018. Troy has three consecutive 10-win seasons.