Wednesday’s national signing day served as a reminder of how rare an opportunity it is for a player to reach the marquee level of college football.
Three members of Centennial’s ballyhooed class of 2010 — guard Nick Rowland (Oregon), linebacker Austin Arias (Air Force) and guard Dylan Lusk (New Mexico State) — inked with schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of NCAA football.
“We’ve been fortunate. We’ve averaged three to five scholarships in the past couple of years,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. “To get a Division I scholarship can sometimes be a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”
That was it for the Northwest Valley this year. Most of the region’s best high school football players will dot the rosters of Valley junior colleges next year.
The other three local players to sign with four-year colleges were Coyotes, too.
Offensive tackle Junior Nieves will play at Football Championship Subdivision school Northern Colordao. Quarterback Dain McFarland and wide receiver Matt Baugh will take their aerial tandem to Division II Fort Hays State in Kansas.
“They wanted to go to the same school. I think some Division One schools had talked to both kids and were interested,” Taylor said. “Fort Hays said they really wanted them and both kids enjoyed their visit there and liked the program.”
Glendale Community College signed 12 players from the area this week, including duos from Cactus (Josh Sydzik and Tyler Tassinari) Centennial (Kyle Coffey and Luis Gareda) Peoria (K.J. Bowen and Javonte Fluellen) and Sunrise Mountain (Preston Brooksby and Jordan Michael).
Joining this haul was a member of Liberty’s first graduating class, jack-of-all-trades Keegan Whipkey. The senior lined up at quarterback, slot receiver, cornerback, safety and punt returner for the 11-1 Lions.
Liberty has a couple of other players looking at Division II and III opportunities, coach Dan Filleman said, notably tailback Dan Mihelich and defensive lineman Mitchell Kullos.
“As a new school and a smaller school it can be a bit tougher until you develop a reputation,” Filleman said. “We have some guys who are looking at more academic-based colleges.”
Class 4A-II champion Cactus also forged a connection with Scottsdale Community College. Three Cobras — offensive tackle Patrick Blanar, center Christian Williams and linebacker Nick Cerqua — signed with Scottsdale. A fourth, running back Alan Woods, is considering joining them but will wait for updated grade reports and test scores before deciding what level to play at, Cactus athletic director Brian Dugid said.
The other big-name back from last season, Centennial’s Anthony Hughes, is in the same boat. If his test scores come through, several Division I schools could show interest — though only Northern Arizona has recruited Hughes while he sorts through his academics.
The final Centennial player to receive attention, linebacker Austin Garday, appears to have slipped through the cracks. Taylor said he recently talked to a Boise State assistant coach who remebered Garday from watching junior films of him.
The coach was surprised to learn Garday was still unsigned, but, like most Division I schools, Boise State’s class is already full. Garday will take some time to decide if he wants to go to a junior college or a Division II school.
“He is as good of a linebacker as we had — had an outstanding season, has excellent speed,” Taylor said. “It happens. This whole recruiting thing is not a science. (The Boise State coach) told Austin to keep his head up.”