A large contingent of Sherman athletes announced their future plans at Bearcat Stadium and it was a diverse group spread across five sports.
James Drenner and Cole Gibson will play football at Austin College while Tyler Smith will play football at Northwestern College, Ashley Boatright is going to Austin College for softball, Anthony Holland will participate in track for Ottawa University, Parker Samuelson will golf at Southeastern Oklahoma State and Jose Nandin will play soccer at Hardin Simmons.
It was a bittersweet moment for a majority of them as parts of their final seasons were cancelled due to to the coronavirus pandemic.
Boatright chose the Division III program for a balance in academics and athletics.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after high school,” she said. “I was worried about what would affect me educationally and the rest would fall into place.”
Boatright, who was also a state qualifying powerlifter, was the starting center fielder for the Lady Bearcats up until the season was halted in mid-March right as Sherman, which was 7-12, was about to enter District 10-5A play and looking to get back to the postseason after coming up just short in 2019.
Boatright was hitting .229 with a .325 on-base percentage, eight RBI, six runs and three steals in 18 games.
She missed the first half of her junior season due to an injury but hit .297 in district play and was second-team all-district after being a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore.
“Even though I missed half of my junior year with an injury and then half of my senior year, every time my cleats hit the field I went 110 percent,” Boatright said.
Austin College was 3-19 overall and 0-6 in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play when the rest of its season was cancelled.
Samuelson competed in just one tournament this spring because of the pandemic, which kept him from reaching the region tournament for the second time.
“I was really excited for senior year. My goal was to compete in the state tournament,” he said. “Around middle school, seventh or eighth grade, I knew I wanted to take this game seriously.”
He was a second-team all-district selection as a junior and shot a combined 167 at the 10-5A tournament to place sixth, which ended up four shots from being a region qualifier as Sherman placed seventh as a team.
As a sophomore he was third in District 5-5A with a combined 167 to be a first-team all-district pick and advanced to the 5A Region I tourney, where he tied for 29th with a 164.
Samuelson had a 165 and was ninth at the district meet as a freshman and was a first-team all-district pick as Sherman placed fourth in the team standings.
Southeastern Oklahoma State was picked to finish sixth in the Great American Conference this past season and the spring campaign was stopped a month before the GAC Tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Storm were able to play in just two spring tournaments, finishing 15th at the Newberry Invite in South Carolina and fourth at the Arkansas Collegiate. Denison’s Austin Adams was a senior on the roster.
Last spring was the second straight season and the fourth time in five years Southeastern advanced to the NCAA Division II Super Regional, including a National Tournament appearance in 2016. The Storm finished eighth and had a pair of local golfers, Pottsboro’s Hayden Foster and Whitesboro’s Zach James, qualify for the National Tournament to close out their careers.
“There’s some big shoes to fill,” Samuelson said. “They have a really good program up there. They were definitely the front-runners. It’s close to home which is nice as well.”
Holland was able to compete in only a pair of meets before track was cancelled. He started at the Aubrey Relays with a fifth-place finish in the 110 hurdles at 17.27 seconds and a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles at 42.88 seconds.
He then competed at the Whitesboro Relays and won the 300 hurdles in 42.71 seconds and was the runner-up in the 110 hurdles with a personal best 15.65 seconds.
After running on the junior varsity his first two seasons, Holland was aiming to return to regionals after placing 16th there in the 300 hurdles as a junior in 41.74 seconds (his personal best of 40.40 seconds came at the district meet) and advance past district in the 110 hurdles after placing 11th in the 10-5A meet a year ago. He was also on the fifth-place finishing mile relay in the 10-5A meet.
“I thought this year was going to be the year. I didn’t get to finish what I started,” he said. “I was just into sprints but I like to challenge myself. It looks hard but I wanted to do it. I wasn’t good at first but I worked at it and got better each year.”
Ottawa University, an NAIA program in Kansas, had its outdoor season cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic after finishing fourth at the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Indoor Championships and sending three athletes to the NAIA Indoor National Meet. During the 2018-19 season, the Braves were seventh in the conference indoor meet and fifth at the conference outdoor meet.
Nandin was the leading scorer for the Bearcats this season as Sherman was sitting in third place in 10-5A with a 5-2-1 mark and was 10-4-5 overall with two matches left on the schedule when the rest of the season was cancelled.
Sherman, Lovejoy and McKinney North were so close in the standings that they agreed to share the district title. The Bearcats would have been making their second straight playoff appearance.
“We were on a roll and going into the playoffs,” Nandin said. “It really sucked that we weren’t able to keep going.”
Nandin, who was named a first-team all-district selection, chose the Division III program over Arlington Baptist and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
“I’ve always liked the school,” he said. “Hardin Simmons was the right fit.”
Hardin Simmons went 14-3-2 this past season, including a program-record 10 straight wins to open the year, and was 7-3-2 in American Southwest Conference play. The Cowboys lost on penalty kicks to University of the Ozarks in the first round of the ASC Tournament.
It was an improvement over a 4-11-2 season in 2018.
The program has won five American Southwest Conference titles in the past 15 seasons, the last in 2014, and made the Sweet 16 of the Division III Tournament in 2009 — the seventh national tourney appearance in program history.
“That was one of the biggest factors. They’re a really good program and they wanted me,” Nandin said. “I can play a lot of different positions and that was something they really liked.”
Drenner and Smith were honorable mention all-district selections while Gibson, like Smith, was a two-year starter but his senior season was cut short by a leg injury that forced him to miss all six district games and could have affected his opportunity to compete at the next level.
“I didn’t know what state I was in at first. It was a prolonged situation and kinda scared me,” Gibson said. “After my leg break, it was about wherever I could play at the next level. I believe that place is Austin College.”
Sherman went 6-4 overall and was 3-3 in district play to tie for third place with John Tyler and Texas High in the 7-5A (I) standings but the Bearcats were the team to end up on the short side of the tie-breaker for a playoff spot, which would have been the program’s third straight.
Drenner chose the Division III program over Hendrix and Southwestern University while Gibson picked the Roos over Montana Tech and Northwestern College.
“I liked Austin College and I really liked Coach Dawson. They offer a really good teaching program,” Drenner said. “I’m really happy we’re going to be able to keep playing together. We’ve come so far since our freshman year.”
Added Gibson: “That’s a big deal going somewhere with a teammate, so you’re not alone.”
Austin College went 5-5 this past fall and 4-4 in the Southern Athletic Association. It was a three-win improvement over the prior season and the program’s best effort since consecutive 5-5 campaigns from 2013-15.
Texoma players on the roster this past season included Denison’s Stephen Fulenchek, Pottsboro’s Sam Bevers, Gunter’s Trey Carr and Kennon Magers and Whitesboro’s Riley Dickson.
Smith chose the NAIA program in Iowa thanks to a Texoma connection with Northwestern head coach Matt McCarty, who has ties to Melissa.
“He was in the area, came to one of our games,” Smith said. “From there he reached out on Twitter and we started talking more. I just fell in love with the college and the campus.”
Northwestern College went 9-2 this past season and was 8-1 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The Red Raiders qualified for the NAIA Football Championship playoffs for the third year in a row and lost in the first round. Northwestern was No. 10 in the final NAIA National Poll, the second time in three seasons in the top 10 and the third straight in the top 20.
“They said I would likely play interior — guard or center — and I’d have a good chance to play or even start because I’d know all three of those positions,” Smith said.