E.A. Sports Today

Big day on campus

Ten White Plains athletes from four sports take part in largest signing ceremony in school history

Running back Pat Harris is believed to be the first White Plains football player in 35 years to sign with a four-year school for his sport.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The gym was decorated like a big college fair. Tables were lined up side-by-side the length of the basketball court each draped in the colors of a different college. Behind each table sat one, sometimes two, White Plains athletes who were declaring their future plans to the student body and the world.

It was a benchmark day for White Plains, the biggest single-day signing event in the history of the school. Ten athletes from four sports to nine different institutions – and that doesn’t count the two golfers who signed earlier in the year and the four seniors who have offers pending.

The lineup included track athletes Matthew Moore (Montevallo) and Briar Poytress (Jacksonville State); baseball players Braxton Dopson (Wallace State), Andrew Cronan (Southern Union), Noah Elder (Southern Union) and Andrew Norred (Berry); softball players Presley Whitten (Snead), Katie Roszell (Bevill State) and Isabella Pinto (College of Central Florida); and the school’s first four-year football signee in 35 years, Pat Harris (Clarke).

“This is big for the program,” Wildcats baseball coach Wes Henderson said. “It shows everybody that you can come to a 4A school that’s out in the country and still attain what you want to attain.

“Basketball has been good for so long and softball has been good for so long, but our track team is doing a fantastic job, our baseball team is being competitive, our football team is making strides. We’re trying to be good at everything, trying to be competitive at everything not just one sport, so I think that shows it’s moving in the right direction.”

Of course, many of the Wildcats behind those multi-colored tables Wednesday formally signed with their colleges weeks ago and were “signing” Wednesday for ceremony sake, but three – Harris, Poytress and Pinto – had the official college papers in front of them on this day.

Perhaps the most historically significant signing on this historic day was Harris, and not just because he plays the highest profile sport. The last White Plains football player to sign a scholarship with a four-year school is believed to be George Dothard, to Troy in 1983. Dothard played on the Trojans’ national championship team and had a chance to be their quarterback before getting sidetracked with a shoulder injury.

Not only is Harris groundbreaking in that regard, he’s going to a Clarke University program in Iowa that will be fielding its first football team next season. Although he was the Wildcats’ dominant running back last season, he is expected to a big piece of the Clarke defensive secondary.

“I most definitely feel like a groundbreaker,” Harris said. “I talked to the head coach and he seemed like he wants to get stuff done and I’m just ready to work with him. I feel like God has put me on this earth to do great things and I feel like this is one of them.”

Just how far have the Wildcats come in their development of college-level athletes? Andy Ward recalls the first signing ceremony he presided over as the White Plains principal five years ago had all of two athletes.

He estimated the number of the athletes at the school has quadrupled during his tenure and events like Wednesday’s massive signing ceremony can do nothing but inspired more.

“It’s exciting for our kids because a lot of these students wouldn’t have the opportunity maybe to go to college and advance their education if it wasn’t for high school sports,” he said. “I think that’s what a lot of people don’t see in high school athletics. That’s just one more avenue for them to be able to go out and maybe go to the next level and get a better education and a better life for them in the future.”

White Plains baseball coach Wes Henderson said signing seniors (from left) Noah Elder, Andrew Norred, Andrew Cronan and Braxton Dopson were part of a “special group” of seniors the likes of which might not be seen again in the program.

Softball players (from left) Katie Roszell, Isabella Pinto and Presley Whitten display the caps of their future college teams.

Pole vaulter Matthew Moore and distance runner Briar Poytress wave the banner for their college choices.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login