BELTON — A standing-room only crowd formed inside Belton’s athletic complex Wednesday to celebrate 12 student-athletes seated, and often smiling, front and center.
Athletic director Michael Morgan’s voice boomed through the room’s speakers. Cheers, chants and applause echoed from a supporting cast that numbered in the hundreds and included family, friends, coaches and teammates. No picture was left untaken. And the dozen Tigers made official their collegiate choices during the jovial signing-day ceremony.
“We are getting to honor these kids that have put in four years,” Belton softball coach Matt Blackburn said.
Seven football players, four softball players and one baseball player, all donning their soon-to-be school’s colors in one way or another, accounted for Belton’s extensive group of commitments and signees.
Isabelle Gutierrez (Mary Hardin-Baylor), Madison Sniggs (Western Texas College), Taylor Tubbs (Texas Wesleyan) and Caleigh Robinson (Angelina College) represented the softball bunch.
“You’ve got all-district players, all-state players and it’s fun as a coach to get to watch them finally find that school where they get to go play at the next level,” Blackburn said.
Pitcher Dylan Blomquist will stay close by and play for coach Craig McMurtry at Temple College, which currently has three other Belton grads on its roster.
“It’s a great place, especially the location. Now, I can go over there and watch him,” Tigers baseball coach Mark Krueger said of Blomquist’s choice. “We are going to expect a lot from Dylan this year, not only on the mound but in the outfield, with his bat and his leadership. He’s going to be one of the guys we can count on day in and day out.”
Three of the seven football commits — quarterback Connor Carothers, wide receiver/kick returner Denver Holman and cornerback Tre Berry — are headed to UMHB, the 2018 Division III national champion whose Crusader Stadium is located about 2 miles down the road from Tiger Field.
Wide receiver Anthony Brown (Saint Anselm, which is in New Hampshire), defensive end Octavius Davis (Sul Ross State), linebacker Jarrett Karnowski (Midwestern State) and cornerback Devyn Raper (New Mexico Military Institute) also found their ideal destinations.
“Every one of these kids can be described as grinders. They’ve all worked extremely hard and the success they’re having is because of the work they did on the track and in the weight room,” Belton football coach Sam Skidmore said. “We had a phenomenal senior class that really bought in, and all these kids have a chance to go be successful. And, I think they all will be. So, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for them because they are great young men, first off, and then they have the work ethic and drive to succeed.”
Morgan, filling the role of master of ceremonies, reeled off the athletes’ accolades they’ve accumulated through their high school careers then handed over the microphone so that each student had a chance to express gratitude toward those who helped and encouraged them along the way.
As they let their guards down a bit in the moment, sharing pieces of their stories, some joked and laughed, some cried and some were completely composed.
And most, if not all, had cookies afterward because no signing day at Belton would be complete without big cookie cakes.