E.A. Sports Today

Allison chooses

Versatile Weaver senior commits to Bethel, which was always committed to him; Oxford’s Sparks among latest all-star picks; Oxford interviews begin

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER – Caleb Allison wasn’t exactly running out of time, but he admits it sure feels good to be able to go to graduation knowing he has a place to play after high school.
After months on edge, watching some doors close as he waited on others to develop, the versatile Weaver senior finally made his college decision Friday, committing to sign with NAIA Bethel (Tenn.) University.
“I wasn’t running out of time, that wasn’t a factor in it,” he said, “but it’s good to finally get settled down and committed on a place after all this time.”
Allison’s recruitment was at times complicated and confusing. He was a multi-sport all-state athlete who could handle multiple positions on the field and command a leadership role in the locker room, yet no substantial offers had come his way after the season. 
He had interest from several programs, including preferred walk-on invitations in the SEC, but the biggest hold up to pulling the trigger was his potential to get into the Air Force Academy. As that process continued, some of the schools that were interested simply didn’t wait any more.
But Bethel remained committed. When Air Force fell through he called the Wildcats’ coaches just to see if they were still interested. Their interest never wavered.
“I told them during wrestling about the Air Force thing,” Allison said. “It was late in the game and some schools when you mentioned it they get upset with you, but I told (Bethel) I’m going to have to get back with them. From Day One they told me, ‘Caleb, we’re going to wait on you to find out what Air Force wants you to do and if that doesn’t work out we want you here.’
“I spoke with them like mid-February and called today not even knowing if the offer was still on the table. They picked up on the first ring and never skipped a beat.”
Allison is projected to be an H-back in the Wildcats’ offense, a position he has come to learn and enjoy in two years after so many years as an interior offensive lineman. When he slimmed down to wrestle at 220, former Weaver coach Daryl Hamby moved him into the backfield to replace Tyrik Hall and he has thrived in both sports ever since.
In committing to Bethel, he will be reunited with former Weaver linemate and kicker Riley Benavides.
“A lot of stress has come off my shoulders,” Allison said. “It’s just good finally getting committed and knowing where I’m going. Graduation is coming up and most of your athletes have already picked a place. When it’s this close to graduation it’s stressful when it’s not decided … I feel I can breathe, finally.”
ALL-STAR SPARKS: Wesley Sparks remembers the way Oxford teammates Jarin Turner, Nate Lloyd and Brody Syer talked about playing in the North-South all-star baseball game as an opportunity, and now he’s getting that opportunity.
The Yellow Jackets’ junior pitcher was formally announced as a member of the North squad for the July doubleheader in Montgomery Friday. He is the only Calhoun County player on this year’s roster.
“It’s just an honor to be able to play in it,” Sparks said. “Those guys said there were a lot of scouts there and it was really a good opportunity to really show what you’ve got. If I go out there and really show what I’ve got I think I’ll have a shot at maybe getting an offer and colleges talking to me.”
Sparks gave the Jackets a defensive presence in the outfield, but he made his biggest splash as a pitcher. He found his stride in the middle of the season, winning two games in the County Tournament (allowing one hit in six innings with 10 strikeouts) and throwing a five-inning one-hitter at Fort Payne, but he felt he slowed down late in the year.
“I thought I did pretty good this year,” he said. “I started off really good and kind of slowed down at the end of the season, but this summer I’m going to really work on pitching.”
The AHSAA announced several other rosters to complete the lineup of games for the all-star week.
White Plains’ Andrew Miller and Hanna Dyar were picked to play on the North teams in the inaugural boys and girls golf matches. Oxford catcher Sarah Howell and White Plains shortstop Emma Jones were picked to play on the North squad in the softball games.
LET’S TALK: Interviews for the head coaching job at Oxford began Friday. Pinson Valley coach Patrick Nix was among three coaches expected to be on campus. Another two interviews, including Oxford assistant (and former Munford and Hazel Green head coach) Will Wagnon, are expected to take place Saturday. It was not known who else was in Friday, but Foley coach Tad Niblett and T.R. Miller coach Keith Etheredge are also said to be on the interview list. Oxford officials have said they’d like to have their coach by May 3.

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