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Sherman turns it to 11 on Signing Day

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman had 11 athletes sign to continue their sports in college. Standing, from left: Sean Husband (East Central) for football, Tate Bethel (Grayson) for baseball, Jeffery Banks (East Central), Benji Omayebu (Idaho State) and Jacoby Hunt (Cisco) for football, Dylan Fine (Friends University) and Luke Young (Southwestern Christian) for baseball. Seated, from left: Emma Jones (Independence) for softball and Marigol Lopez, Lizbeth Sanchez and Abigail Escobedo (Murray State) for soccer.

There was reason for a large celebration due to the large number of Bearcats and Lady Bearcats who have dealt with plenty of obstacles over the past year as they chased their dreams to continue their careers after their successful runs at Sherman.

Nearly a dozen athletes across four sports announced what future plans were put into motion at a signing ceremony.

In football, Benji Omayebu is headed to Idaho State University, Jacoby Hunt is going to Cisco College and Jeffery Banks and Sean Husband both picked East Central University.

For baseball, a third of the lineup was represented — Tate Bethel decided on Grayson, Dylan Fine chose Friends University and Luke Young selected Southwestern Christian University.

Abigail Escobedo, Marigol Lopez and Lizbeth Sanchez are all headed to Murray State College to play soccer.

And for softball, Emma Jones will attend Independence Community College.

Omayebu joins his brothers in the college ranks — Nathaniel was a red-shirt sophomore running back at Angelo State and Daniel was a freshman defensive lineman at Abilene Christian this past fall — but of course views himself in higher esteem.

“I always knew I was going to be better,” Omayebu said while flashing a smile.

He will head up to Idaho State after choosing the Bengals over East Central and offers from several other Division II programs.

“It’s D-I so let’s go,” Omayebu said. “I’m going there to start. That’s the plan.”

Idaho State listed him as a running back, a spot he has had limited touches at with the Bearcats because of his dynamic ability at receiver.

“My first position has always been running back,” Omayebu said. “I think mainly running back and special teams is where I can make my mark.”

This past season Omayebu had 45 catches for 592 yards and four touchdowns to go with 60 carries for 570 yards and seven touchdowns and was named first-team all-district.

As a junior he totaled 49 catches for 538 yards and five TDs to go with 36 carries for 329 yards and four touchdowns as well as three return touchdowns and was first-team all-district.

During his sophomore year, Omayebu was primarily on defense as a starter in the secondary and named second-team all-district at safety.

Idaho State is a Football Championship Subdivision program (formally I-AA) and competes in the Big Sky Conference. The Bengals will play a spring schedule after the 2020 campaign was postponed. Idaho State was 3-9 in 2019 after going 6-5 the prior season.

Hunt finished with 31 receptions for 505 yards and five touchdowns this past fall and was an honorable mention all-district selection.

As a junior he had 34 catches for 484 yards and six touchdowns and was first-team all-district.

Hunt also saw time as a sophomore with 11 catches for 83 yards.

Hunt picked Cisco over Southwest Assemblies of God.

“They see me in the slot, on the outside, at tight end and being a threat everywhere,” Hunt said. “Just make plays when I’m on the field.”

Cisco will play a seven-game schedule starting in late March after it had the normal 2020 fall schedule postponed due to COVID-19. The Wranglers went 5-4 in 2019 and will be under the direction this season by Denison native Ryan Taylor, who was elevated to head coach after four years as the offensive coordinator. Another former Yellow Jacket, Brian Lilly, is taking over as the defensive coordinator.

Hunt joins Pottsboro’s Titus Lyons and Denison’s Keebler Wagoner, Keleon Vaughn and Javonte Briscoe in the Wranglers’ recruiting class.

“You know with the people going there, Texoma’s really showing out,” Hunt said.

Husband caught 29 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns and was a first-team all-district selection. Last season he had 413 yards and two TDs on 38 receptions and was named second-team all-district.

He also hauled in 18 catches for 206 yards and a score as a sophomore.

The constant practice battles with so much future college talent really helped everyone.

“Especially the one-on-ones, those were the best practice days,” Husband said. “Pushing each other to be better and talking trash just comes with it.”

Husband picked the Division II program for the familiar surroundings

“It felt like I was in Sherman, I was at home,” Husband said. “My first year I think they see me inside but as the year goes on they see me at every position — receivers have to know all the spots.”

Banks shifted from corner to safety for his senior season and earned second-team all-district accolades with 56 total tackles (37 solo), three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.

“At first I was iffy because I hadn’t played it but as the year went along it felt better,” Banks said. “Being in the middle of the field there’s more action, a chance for more tackles.”

In his first year as a starter in 2019, Banks was chosen honorable mention all-district.

He chose ECU over Southeastern.

“They said I could come in and compete at either spot I wanted, safety or cornerback,” Banks said.

East Central did not play this past fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tigers went 3-8, both overall and in the Great American Conference, in 2019. It was the second straight 3-8 campaign for the program, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2015. Tom Bean’s Kaleb Graham is a freshman on the roster.

Bethel had a choice to make between football and baseball.

He was a three-year starter, the last two at quarterback that including throwing for 1,707 yards and 15 touchdowns and running for six scores as a first-team all-district pick this past season, to go with entering his fourth-year as the starting shortstop and also leading the pitching staff later this month.

After thinking about an offer from Bethel University to stick with football, he decided to go with baseball and picked Grayson over Clarendon College and Fort Scott Community College.

“Ever since I was little, I always dreamed about baseball,” Bethel said. “Just being a very good program, I couldn’t go wrong. I’m going technically as a two-way player. They want me to play some third base, shortstop, wherever I can fit, as well as doing some pitching.”

Bethel had been first-team all-district as a freshman and junior to go with second-team all-district honors as a sophomore, when he hit .337 with a .442 on-base percentage to go with a 3-3 record with a save and 3.77 ERA in 29.2 innings.

Last year the season was stopped right as the Bearcats had started District 10-5A play with a victory against Princeton and were 2-10 overall.

Grayson is off to a 6-1 start this season after the Vikings were 16-3 overall and 2-0 in North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference action a year ago when the season was stopped due to COVID-19. Former Denison and Pottsboro standout Hunter Watson is on the roster this spring and Bethel joins Denison’s Cam Wheeler in the recruiting class.

In 2019 Grayson won its seventh conference title in 14 seasons and the program has won three JUCO World Series crowns, the last in 2008, and made seven Series appearances, the last in 2011.

Young chose the NAIA school in Bethany, Okla. over Abilene Christian.

“Southwestern Christian was the first to give me an offer. They were there from the beginning,” Young said. “I really think it’s the place for me.”

He is a three-year letterman and two-year starter who will spend time at all three outfield positions this coming season.

Southwestern Christian opens its season this week and went 17-9 last year when the season was stopped. The last four full seasons saw the Eagles win at least 40 games and made the semifinals in three straight National Christian College Athletic Association World Series trips from 2016-18.

Fine picked the NAIA program in Wichita, Kan.

“It was a good fit from the beginning,” Fine said.

A first baseman, Fine spent the past two years playing at East Bladen High School in North Carolina before moving back to Sherman for his senior season following a freshman year with the Cats.

“I feel like I can contribute a lot,” Fine said. “When I came back I had to earn some respect but after a few weeks it was just like back in freshman year.”

Friends University is off to a 5-1 start this season after the Falcons were 14-13 overall and 4-4 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play last year when the season was halted due to COVID-19. The team was picked sixth in the 2021 KCAC preseason poll.

The Falcons reached the NAIA National Tournament in 2017 and won there for the first time since 2009.

For the Lady Bearcat soccer players, the junior college in Tishomingo, Okla., was attractive because of the opportunity to continue to play together not just at the high school level but with their club team as well.

Escobedo chose the Aggies over Arkansas Rich Mountain and Midwestern State.

“It was closer to home and I wanted to play with my best friends,” said Escobedo, who is ticketed for the midfield. “I thought that would be pretty awesome."

Lopez picked Murray State over University of the Ozarks.

“For starters, it’s close to home. I’m a big family person. When I committed, I hoped they would commit also,” Lopez said. “I really like the team, how they treated everybody.”

Sanchez decided on the program over Arkansas Rich Mountain and McPherson.

“At first we were all looking at different schools,” said Sanchez, who will be either at left back or on the wing. “We never thought we would end up on the same team. It’s really exciting.”

Sherman is in the middle of district play. Last season Lopez, a keeper, and Sanchez were honorable mention all-district selections when the scheduled stopped with two matches remaining.

Murray State College will be playing a spring schedule after their 2020 fall campaign was postponed due to COVID-19.

The Aggies went 14-5-1 overall and 9-4-1 in conference play with a loss in the Region II semifinals.

Jones chose the junior college in Independence, Kan. with a little help. Former Lady Bearcat teammate Kenna Ferguson is a freshman pitcher for the Pirates, who start their season later this month.

“She persuaded me a little bit,” Jones said. “I’m originally from that area. I went up there and really liked it. Both of the coaches were awesome.”

She is entering her fourth season as a starter, having been a third baseman but could find herself behind the plate as well.

Last year Sherman was 7-11 and about to start district play when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Jones hit .364 with six doubles, six RBI and scored 15 times.

She was a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore when she hit .298 and was tied for second on the team with 11 RBI.

As a freshman she batted .234 with four RBI.

Last season Independence was 3-13 overall and 2-4 in Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference play when the season was cancelled. In 2019 the program finished 15-24 — an improvement of 15 wins under a new coaching staff — and was 9-17 in its division.