National Signing Day 2020: Seven sign at Naples High Naples Daily News
Wednesday is National Signing Day, the start of the latest period when high school seniors can sign national letters of intent with college athletic programs.
Eight Collier County high schools will host signing ceremonies today with a total of 32 athletes committing to play at the next level. Here are news and notes from around the county on National Signing Day.
Golden Eagles go first
Naples High kicked off Signing Day locally with a ceremony that started at 7:30 a.m. in the school's auditorium. Seven athletes from four programs committed.
The group includes three football players, one signing a Division I scholarship and two committing to Division II programs. Mike Fangman, a three-year starter on the Naples offensive line, committed to Division I-Football Championship Subdivision school Missouri State.
"It's always been a goal and a dream of mine (to play Division I football), and I feel blessed to be able to do it," Fangman said.
Running back C.J. Dietzel signed with Franklin Pierce, a Division II school in New Hampshire. Receiver Jercobi Becklum is headed to Division II Western New Mexico, where Naples High alum Beau Grech is the defensive coordinator.
The signing featured two former Naples Daily News Player of the Year winners. Kyleigh Chickering, the reigning Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, committed to Roanoke College. Jillian Dempsey, a two-time Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, signed with Savannah College of Art and Design.
Sophia Chickering also committed to play lacrosse at Roanoke, a Division III program in Virginia. Though she's happy to be going with her twin sister, Sophia said that's not the main reason she chose Roanoke.
"It was a consideration," Sophia Chickering said about playing with sister Kyleigh, "but it's not why I'm going there. I wanted a Division III program for academics, and Virginia is beautiful."
Lily Grasso signed to play at Ave Maria, an NAIA school in eastern Collier County. Grasso is a four-year varsity player and a four-time All-Collier County Athletic Conference selection.
Rosales back where he started
RJ Rosales played his senior year at Evangelical Christian, but he was back where it all started for him at Wednesday's signing ceremony at Immokalee High School.
A three-year starting quarterback for the Indians before transferring this summer, Rosales officially signed with Army with a huge contingent of family and friends cheering him on. Defensive back Pierre Percial, who played just one year of varsity for the Indians, made it count. Percial signed with Division II Urbana (Ohio) University.
"I felt like it was only right, finishing where I started," Rosales said. "This is where I experienced the growth, the failure, the success, the process. I had two young kids here that I really mentor and if they see me do it, they know they should be able to."
Rosales said the recruiting process hasn't been easy. Despite putting up gaudy statistics and leading Immokalee to three playoff appearances, many Division I programs were overlooking him due to his 5-foot-8 stature. But he said he always knew he could play at the highest level.
"I've had the opportunity the last three years to come to these ceremonies, just to support others that have signed," he said. "And I always knew when this day would come, I wanted to have everybody that supported me up on that stage with me. This is the day I've been waiting for, and I'm excited to start the next chapter."
Quarterback RJ Rosales signs with Army, while defensive back signs with Division II Urbana (Ohio) at Immokalee Signing Day ceremony. Naples
Magel might play Division I
Golden Gate quarterback-turned-safety Ryan Magel signed with the University of St. Thomas, a Division III school in St. Paul, Minnesota. However, Magel could be playing Division I football in a few years.
St. Thomas recently was involuntarily removed from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for competitive reasons — the school won seven conference titles in the past nine years. The Tommies have received an offer to join the Summit League, a Division I-Football Championship Subdivision conference.
The NCAA doesn't allow a team to jump directly from Division III to Division I, so St. Thomas has petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to join the Summit League and is awaiting an answer.
Magel (5-9, 170) was the Titans' quarterback as a junior but switched to defensive back as a senior. He led the area with nine interceptions, including three in one game, and had five pass breakups. Magel, who will play safety in college, is one of three finalists for the Daily News' Defensive Player of the Year award.
Six sign for Barron Collier
Six Barron Collier student-athletes signed, including two key pieces to the Cougars football team. Running back Drew Powell is headed to Cornell and kicker/punter Mason Campbell heads to Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Powell has been a standout in his Barron Collier career, but primarily featured as the Cougars’ bell cow at running back. Despite missing two games his senior year, Powell ran for 876 yards and eight touchdowns after nearly running for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
“Once they started showing interest, there was no doubt in my mind that that’s where I wanted to go,” Powell said of Cornell.
Six Barron Collier seniors make it official on National Signing Day to continue their athletic careers at the next level. Naples Daily News
Zoe Hendrickx, a finalist for Naples Daily News Girls Swimmer of the Year, will head north to swim at IUPUI, a member of the Horizon League.
In her senior year, Hendrickx finished fourth in the 200 IM at the state championship also added a 10th-place finish in the 100 backstroke. She also swam legs of the 400 freestyle relay team that finished third and the 200 medley relay team that took fifth as the Cougars finished second as a team.
The allure of swimming at one of the top facilities in the NCAA that has hosted Olympic Trails and NCAA Championships drew her to want to be a Jaguar.
“The campus was so nice, it’s literally five minutes from downtown Indianapolis and the facilities are among the top two, three in the country,” Hendrickx said. “I’m so excited to go up there.”
Two members of the Cougars pitching staff that has made two state semifinal appearances the last three years will also head to the next level. Connor Phelan, who also doubles as an infielder, will head to Montevallo in Alabama and Adrian Abad will pitch at Eastern Mennonite in Virginia.
A unique signing was made official as David Tierney will head to Duke to compete on the fencing team. Tierney is one of the most established fencers in the country, having competed for Team USA on the national level and trains at the Naples Fencing Academy.
Lions make school history
First Baptist Academy had a historic National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday. Three Lions signed letters of intent to play in college, and all three broke ground for their teams and school.
Volleyball player Jordan Benoit signed with Pepperdine, and soccer player Malaya Melancon signed with Florida Gulf Coast University. Each player was the first from her respective sport to commit to a Division-I program.
Megan Williams became the first from her program to sign with a college. She will play lacrosse at Lincoln Memorial University.
“It exemplifies how big our sports have gotten as a small school,” Melancon said. “I’ve been here since pre-(kindergarten), so it’s been amazing to see it grow.”
Melancon began playing soccer for the Lions varsity as a sixth-grader and has helped the team become a consistent winner. She has 190 goals in seven seasons, including 188 in the past five seasons.
More importantly, FBA girls soccer has made its first two regional appearances with Melancon (2017, 2019) and won its first regional game last year.
Benoit led the FBA volleyball team to back-to-back district championships the past two years and a regional title in 2018. A homeschool student, she had 532 kills and 323 digs in her two seasons with the team.
However, Benoit will be playing beach volleyball at Pepperdine in Malibu, California. She started playing beach volleyball when she was 8 and it’s always been her first love.
“The challenge in beach (volleyball) drew me to it,” Benoit said. “Plus, I love the beach. It’s always great being outdoors and in the sand.”
As the first college lacrosse player from FBA, Williams can take extra pride because she founded the program.
After playing lacrosse at Barron Collier as a freshman, Williams transferred to FBA as a sophomore. The Lions didn’t have a girls lacrosse program, so Williams worked with athletic director Billy Sparacio to start one.
“I hope this helps all the other girls continue to develop,” Williams said. “It’s been awesome to watch the program grow.”
Two Trojans go Division II
Lely had two football players sign Wednesday, both from an impressive defense that held opponents to 16.4 points per game this past season.
Linebacker Jayden Noel committed to Upper Iowa, a Division II program. Defensive tackle Adam Branchedor signed with Lake Erie College, also a Division II school.
Noel (5-11, 205) was third on the team with 86 tackles this fall. He also had seven tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. Branchedor (6-2, 240) had 44 tackles, six for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Branchedor and Noel helped Lely go from 2-8 the past two seasons to 6-4 with a playoff berth in 2019, the first season under head coach J.J. Everage.
Bears LB headed to Notre Dame
After leading Palmetto Ridge in tackles this past season, linebacker Voshon Siriac is headed to Notre Dame. That is Notre Dame College, a Division II program outside of Cleveland.
Siriac (6-1, 190) had 83 tackles for the Bears his senior season, including nine tackles for loss. He added two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a team-high three fumble recoveries.
Siriac made the Daily News All-Area second team this year.
Seahawks will play D-I
Community School might not have had the best season (1-8), but the Seahawks have talented players. That much was obvious at Wednesday’s signing ceremony, where two CSN players committed to Division I programs.
Kicker Ricky Abood signed with Georgetown, a Football Championship Subdivision program. Tight end Graham Murphey committed as a preferred walk-on to Wake Forest.
Abood (5-7, 145) hit five field goals and 15 extra points this season. In nominating Abood for the Daily News All-Area team, Seahawks coach Paul Selvidio called him “undoubtedly the best kicker in the area.”
Murphey (6-2, 220) heads to Atlantic Coast Conference school Wake Forest, where his brother, Alex, a CSN alum, is on the track team.
Neumann has 14% of senior class sign
St. John Neumann only has 70-plus students in its Class of 2020. But nine of them — 14% — signed to play college athletics Wednesday.
"As an athletic director to see nine athletes, four sports represented shows a lot of what kind of kids we have, what kind of coaches we have here, and what kind of faculty, staff and families that have pushed these kids academically and athletically," Neumann athletic director and football coach Damon Jones said. "Sports is something you have to be passionate about. To be able to go and get a college education and continue to do something you love, there's very few kids that get a chance to do that."
Nine student-athletes from four different sports signed to continue their careers at St. John Neumann High School on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Naples Daily News
Swimmer Maddy Burt led the group. The state champion in the 100-yard butterfly at the Class 1A state meet committed to the University of Arizona back in March on her 17th birthday. She picked the Wildcats over Auburn and Florida State.
But she isn't the only Celtic going Division I.
Fellow swimmer Chloe Pankita is headed to South Dakota State. Baseball player Nick Kythreotis, a pitcher, is going to Fairleigh Dickinson. And football player J.P. Raiger picked Holy Cross, a Football Championship Subdivision school, after a recent visit.
Raiger did a little bit of everything for the Celtics, racking up 122 yards receiving, 116 on punt returns, and 80 on kickoff returns. He had 41 tackles and two interceptions on defense. Raiger returned one punt and one interception for scores, and added two more on receptions.
Andrew Saluan had a team-high 106 tackles as a senior on his way to Case Western, which is NCAA Division III. Justin Mathieu was second in receiving with 231 yards and two touchdowns, and added 22 tackles and five passes defensed on defense. He'll head to Sioux Falls, which is NCAA Division II but won three NAIA titles in the mid-2000s.
Sophie Shrader was the Naples Daily News Girls Golfer of the Year as a junior, and was a first-team selection her senior year. Among those she credited was longtime Neumann girls golf coach Jeff Jones. West Florida is Division II.
Football player Noah Annicelli, 5-10 and 290 pounds, will follow another Celtic, offensive lineman Anthony DeBella, at St. Olaf, an NCAA Division II school in Minnesota.
Matthew Culbert, also a pitcher, liked the mix of academics and athletics at Emory, a Division III school in Atlanta.
National Signing Day in Collier County
A list of the Collier County high school seniors who committed to colleges at signing ceremonies Wednesday
Jercobi Becklum, football, Western New Mexico
Kyleigh Chickering, lacrosse, Roanoke College
Sophia Chickering, lacrosse, Roanoke College
Jillian Dempsey, cross country/track, Savannah College of Art and Design
C.J. Dietzel, football, Franklin Pierce
Mike Fangman, football, Missouri State
Lily Grasso, volleyball, Ave Maria
First Baptist Academy
Jordan Benoit, beach volleyball, Pepperdine
Malaya Melancon, soccer, FGCU
Megan Williams, lacrosse, Lincoln Memorial
Adam Branchedor, football, Lake Erie College
Jayden Noel, football, Upper Iowa
Ricky Abood, football, Georgetown
Graham Murphey, football, Wake Forest (preferred walk-on)
Voshon Siriac, football, Notre Dame College
Pierre Percial, football, Urbana (Ohio) University
R.J. Rosales, football, Army
St. John Neumann
Noah Annicelli, football, St. Olaf
Maddy Burt, swimming, Arizona
Matthew Culbert, baseball, Emory
Nick Kythreotis, baseball, Fairleigh Dickinson
Justin Mathieu, football, Sioux Falls
Chloe Pankita, swimming, South Dakota State
J.P. Raiger, football, Holy Cross
Andrew Saluan, football, Case Western
Sophie Shrader, golf, West Florida