LAURINBURG — Five Scotland football players committed to colleges on National Signing Day Wednesday morning. The players and their parents gathered in the school’s cafeteria and each player signed their letters to take the next step in their football careers.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey was on hand to congratulate the players, and reminded them they needed to stay focused and be ready to work hard when they get to college.
“It’s always a transition. I told them not to get comfortable now, because this is when it really starts,” Bailey said.
While the ceremony celebrated the athletic accomplishments of the five seniors, Bailey said it is important to succeed academically as well.
“The most important thing is to get an education to pay back your parents for all the work and time they spent driving you to football,” Bailey said.
Offensive line anchor goes to William & Mary
Garrett Best will play his collegiate football at The College of William and Mary.
He made his commitment official at the start of national signing day on Wednesday morning. The senior offensive lineman said Williamsburg, the town in Virginia where the college is located, was a major factor in his decision.
“I really liked the location. It’s a historical town, and it’s a really nice campus,” Best said.
Best will redshirt his freshman season and will then play on the offensive line wherever needed. He said he had a few other offers but was leaning towards William and Mary for a while.
Once enrolled at the school, he said he plans to study to do something with physical therapy or sports medicine.
Best was called up to the varsity squad late in 2011 and was a member of the state championship team, so he will graduate Scotland with a ring. He said that, and then this season, were his best memories from his career with the Scots.
“This year was great, going 15-1. A lot of people doubted how far we could go after last season.” Best said.
Best was a key figure in Scotland’s offense, as he helped open up running lanes for his teammates, as well as time to pass the ball. His importance was obvious early on in the season when the Scots found themselves trailing late on the road at Marlboro County and ran quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe behind the blocking of best all the way down the field on several plays.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said that Best, who was a two-time All-Conference selection, was one of the team leaders throughout the season.
“He was hugely important to us. He helped lead a group that was inexperienced overall,” Bailey said.
Strong will play right away at Davidson
Tristan Strong won’t have to wait long to play football again. The offensive lineman signed with Davidson College on Wednesday morning and is expected to see immediate playing time when he arrives on campus.
Strong had offers from several schools both in- and out-of-state, but the visit to Davidson helped him make up his mind, he said.
“I was really impressed when I went for my official visit. The campus is amazing and the people are amazing,” Strong said.
When he arrives at Davidson, Strong will spend the majority of his time playing guard, but could also see action at the tackle position. The Wildcats play in the Division I Southern Conference. Last season they finished 0-11 overall.
Strong said he has several good memories of his time at Scotland.
“Winning the conference championship this year and making the playoff run was something I’ll never forget, and getting to play at N.C. State’s Stadium,” Strong said.
Unfortunately for Strong, he suffered a broken ankle in the first half of the state championship game, but he was able to recover quickly.
“Never losing to Richmond was good too,” Strong added.
Unlike most positions, it is hard to track the performance of lineman with statistics. But you can look at the offense as a whole and get an idea of how well the line played this season. The Scots rushed for 4,150 yards and passed for 2,046 last season, scoring 79 offensive touchdowns.
Coach Richard Bailey said Strong, along with fellow lineman Garrett Best, were very dependable players.
“Tristan was a vocal leader as well. They both never missed practice no matter what. If they did it was for something really serious,” Bailey said. “They were very accountable on and off the field.”
Monley signs with Georgia Military
One of Scotland’s most dynamic football players from last season will play at Georgia Military College for the next two seasons. Trejon Monley, who played defensive back and wide receiver for the Scots, will play there for two years and then attempt to transfer to a larger program.
Monley, who played two years on the varsity team, said beating Richmond was the highlight of his time on the squad. He was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and also made the All-Conference squad for his work this season.
While primarily a defensive back, Monley also saw significant playing time as a receiver this season. He made 35 receptions for 676 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he came up with five interceptions and was always a threat on special teams to take a punt or kickoff back for a score.
Monley’s biggest offensive contribution came against Knightdale in the third round of the state playoffs. The game was tied at 17 each with under a minute to play when Monley hauled in a huge catch that set Scotland up for the go-ahead score a few plays later. The Scots won that game 24-17.
“He played at his best in big games,” Bailey said. “He’s a very competitive person and wants to be the best player on the field.”
Monley didn’t say where he hopes to transfer after playing for Georgia Military, but Bailey said he has a lot of potential.
“He’s one you could see playing in the ACC or SEC. He has major Division I potential. Georgia Military is a good environment for him,” Bailey said.
Linebacker Williams joins Fayetteville State
Marquis Williams, Scotland’s leading tackler, signed with Fayetteville State on Wednesday.
Williams was part of the strong defensive unit that helped get the Scots to the state championship game and kept the team in every game, even when the offense was struggling.
“He had a great year for us at inside linebacker,” Bailey said. “He definitely was a guy we depended on all year. I’m very proud of him.”
Fayetteville State finished 6-4 last season and competes in Division II CIAA conference. They played Winston-Salem State in the last game of the season, losing 28-14.
Williams said he was considering a few other schools, but decided on Fayetteville State after taking a visit on Friday.
“I went up there on Friday and they offered me a partial scholarship, but then a few days the coach texted me offering me a full ride,” Williams said.
He plans to study civil engineering. He said his favorite memory from his football career at Scotland was the Pinecrest game, which Scotland won 75-28. The Scots led 61-0 at halftime.
“That was the best half of football we played all year,” Williams said.
Speedster Tyson staying in-state
Wide receiver Jalen Tyson, who had a breakout season last fall, will attend Winston-Salem State.
Tyson finished the season with 22 receptions for 402 yards and five touchdowns. His best performance of the year came against Heritage High School in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs when he snatched seven catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Tyson was able to get open and score thanks to his speed.
“One thing you can’t coach is speed,” Bailey said.
“He’s a great track guy. He did not play a whole bunch as a junior but this year he really came through,” he said.
One of Tyson’s most useful traits for the Scotland coaching staff was his versatility. He started out as a slot receiver, but also played as a wide out when needed. Tyson filled the wide receiver slot in the Heritage game when Trejon Monley only played defensively after taking a few knocks the week before.
“That was very important for us to have someone who could fill those roles. Not everyone can learn different positions like that, but he’s a smart kid and did a great job,” Bailey said.
Like Williams, Tyson said the game against Pinecrest stands out as one of the best.