There was another big day of signings at Denison, something that has become routine. Another routine part of the process for the Yellow Jacket athletic program is the athletes heading to the next level are coming from multiple sports.
The spring signing period was no different as Christian Smallwood signed to play football for Cisco Junior College while Drew Williams is going to Howard Payne for football, Elizabeth Linwood signed with North Central Texas College for softball and Zander Ramey signed with Hill College for baseball.
Smallwood, an offensive lineman, chose the Wranglers over Southeastern Oklahoma State.
“I liked the atmosphere there. The players, they made me feel like I was home,” Smallwood said.
After spending his first two years at Sherman, Smallwood transferred to Denison and has been a starter the past two seasons, earning second-team all-district honors as a senior.
Cisco went 5-4 this past season — the second straight year at 5-4 — and was 3-4 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. The Wranglers’ offensive coordinator is Ryan Taylor, a first-team all-district offensive lineman for the Yellow Jackets who graduated in 2006 and then played at Tyler Junior College and UCLA.
The plan is for Smallwood to stay at tackle, but he was prepared to move inside if schools wanted him to switch positions.
“I was talking to the coaches during football season about playing guard in college,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with it — I was taking reps there during the season.”
Williams, a three-year starter at guard, chose Howard Payne over Bethany College and Northwestern College.
“Howard Payne showed the most support,” he said. “It felt like home and a good fit to spend the next four years.”
He was honorable mention all-district as a junior and second-team all-district as a senior.
“The closer I got to being a senior, I realize I’ve got more to go in the tank,” Williams said. “When I was a sophomore, that offensive line I was on helped me carry over those lessons to the next two years.”
Williams and Smallwood helped paved the way for a talented running attack each of the past two seasons. In 2018, Denison finished with 414.2 yards per game with 335.7 of it on the ground. Last season the Yellow Jackets averaged 422.8 yards and 272.4 of that was on the ground.
Howard Payne went 5-5 overall and 4-5 in American Southwest Conference play last season. It was more victories than the previous four seasons combined. Whitewright’s Payton Jones was on the roster last year.
Ramey chose Hill over Midland when he committed to the junior college in November.
“I went out there and the campus was really welcoming,” Ramey said. “The coaches were really confident in me and my ability. I knew some of the guys on the team and that helped.”
Last season as the No. 2 starter behind Oklahoma signee Christian Ruebeck, he had a 3.47 earned run average and struck out 44 in 38.1 innings as Denison made a second straight playoff appearance before losing to Frisco Lone Star in the bi-district round and ending at 15-17.
“I’ve really turned into more of a leader as I’ve progressed. We’re all on the same page,” Ramey said. “I think we’re going to go the playoffs again. That chemistry is going to get us far.”
As a sophomore, Ramey stepped into the rotation and was the District Newcomer of the Year as he helped the Yellow Jackets finish with their best season in 25 years by earning a trip to the Class 5A Region II quarterfinals and with a 21-15 record — the most wins by the program in a season since 1998.
Hill College went 33-19 overall and 20-12 in North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference action last year and reached the Region V Tournament after finishing 25-23 overall and 15-17 in conference action during the 2018 season. The program is picked to finish fifth in the conference this spring.
Whitesboro has two players on the roster this season — Kade Brewer is a sophomore and Scout Sanders is a freshman.
Linwood chose NCTC thanks to her previous relationships with the school.
“I’ve been going there forever for lessons. I have a great connection with the coaches,” she said. “Knowing what’s there, it’s going to be good competition.”
She is a four-year starter for the Lady Jackets and will be trying to help the program reach the playoffs for the third time in her career when the season starts later this month.
“We’re hoping to win district and then go a little bit further than last year,” Linwood said.
Linwood was named first-team all-district and a Texas Girls Coaches Association All-Star after batting .417 with eight doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 37 RBI and scored 43 times as Denison matched the best season in school history with a region quarterfinal appearance before losing against Frisco Reedy to finish 21-13 — the first time the Lady Jackets won 20 games in a season.
Linwood attributed her continued improvement to hard work and dedication. “I’ve always looked up to people every year and that’s made me work harder,” she said.
During her sophomore season, Linwood was a second-team all-district selection after hitting .403 with three homers, 14 RBI, 14 steals and 20 runs.
As a freshman, Linwood hit .413 with eight doubles, a home run and 13 RBI and selected first-team all-district as Denison won the District 5-5A title — the first by the program in 12 years — before losing against defending region champ Aledo in the bi-district round, which was the team’s first playoff berth in six seasons.
NCTC went 46-17 this past season and 22-10 in North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference play. The Lady Lions fell just short of reaching the Junior College World Series with a 7-6 loss in the Region V title game against defending champ Temple.
Last year’s roster included Howe’s Peyton Streetman and Madisyn Hargrove and S&S’ Jada Muller. Sherman’s Jillian Whitmire signed with the Lady Lions in the fall.
In 2017, NCTC won the Region V Tournament to reach the World Series, the program’s third trip in nine seasons.
Skylar Wood is headed to Oklahoma Baptist to be a member of the dance team. She will participate on the school’s Game Day squad and perform at athletic contests and pep rallies.
“I realized it would be fun to do and I didn’t want to stop after high school,” Wood said. “They had a recruitment clinic where you do a bunch of techniques, learn a routine and see how well you can do. It was exciting to make the team.”