Nothing like making it to a state championship game to put your program on the map. Such was the case for coach Mike Sonneborn and four of his Dade Christian football players as the fruits of their accomplishment paid off on Wednesday afternoon.
Two months after falling to Jacksonville University Christian in the title game, Terrence Alls, Aaron Batten, Gary Sampson and Sterling Mack enjoyed a much nicer day in the school’s auditorium when they all signed scholarship commitments.
The headliner was Alls, a wide receiver who wore his Duke cap into the auditorium and will go play for coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils for the next four years.
“I committed last August and there was never a doubt where I was going,” said Alls who limped through the championship with a bad shoulder which required surgery the following week. “It’s obviously a superior academic institutions which is really exciting and coach [David] Cutcliffe really has the program going in the right direction. They play a very wide open style which really fits for the kind of system I want to play in.”
Batten, a 6-4, 218 tight end signed with Syracuse while Sampson (Liberty College, Va.) and Mack (Western Illinois) went the smaller school route. Sampson, who played both ways and is being projected as a strong safety, turned in an inspiring performance in the championship game battling an injured ankle while playing both ways while Mack, a linebacker actually missed all of last season when he ruptured an Achilles in August.
“A bittersweet day for sure,” said Sonneborn. “You’ve got four kids that we’ve had since the ninth grade and watched them grow up and help raise this program to new levels and now you have to watch them go out the door. But it’s a very proud moment for me, our coaches, faculty and parents because not only are they talented football players but great kids as well who never gave me a single problem. Not only will they make their respective football programs better, but the institutions they attend as well.” Bill Daley
Despite all the coaching changes taking place at FIU, the one thing that did not change for Belen Jesuit defensive back Xavier Hines was his desire to become a Panther.
Hines made his commitment official by signing his letter of intent along with five other teammates in front of a large crowd at Belen’s cafeteria.
“I stayed along with them because I enjoyed my time with the new coaching staff,” Hines said. “I really felt at home going there and I was stuck on FIU.”
It was former FIU coach Mario Cristobal and his staff that originally went after Hines, and his dismissal created some uncertainty about his collegiate future. But despite the transition to new coach Ron Turner, Hines will be playing college football minutes away from where he attended high school.
“This is all a reflection of their hard work over the past four years,” Belen head coach Richard Stuart said of his departing seniors. “These guys were a part of our rise and I’m very proud of them.”
Wolverine offensive lineman Keonte Cash, dubbed the best lineman to play at Belen by Stuart, will head upstate this fall to play for Florida A&M.
“He’s the best lineman we’ve had in school history,” Stuart said. “He’s relentless and dominating. If he was a few inches taller he would probably be getting looks from Alabama and Miami.”