The handmade candy-filled leis, donned by all five of Union High School’s college-bound football players, are made for moments like this, senior Zion Fa’aopega said.
“Moments of achievement,” the senior said. “It’s part of the culture, our tradition in Samoa.”
Wednesday was a tradition, too: official national signing day for football and soccer. Wednesday marked the traditional college football signing day following the arrival of December’s inaugural early signing period.
Achievement for Fa’aopega, one of the nine college-bound student-athletes honored by Union on Wednesday. Fa’aopega and fellow teammate Aiden Nellor join Skyview’s Cole Grossman as Clark County’s trio who signed with Big Sky football programs. Union also honored three college-bound girls soccer players, led by career goal scorer MaKayla Woods (Washington) along with Courtney Cranston (basketball). It continues a trend of at least one girls soccer player to head off to a college program under coach Kelcey Burris since the school opened 11 years ago.
Like Union, other area schools had signing-day celebrations featuring athletes from other sports.
At Union, football coach and athletic director Rory Rosenbach addressed the friends, family members and couple hundred students in the cafeteria to celebrate Union’s nine college-bound student-athletes.
While they all had different paths of how they got to where they are today, they all achieved the same goal.
Fa’opega and Nellor will also be college teammates in Cheney. Fa’aopega said he feared the first-round loss to Sumner might be his final football game, but weeks later, Eastern came calling.
Even after a late offer from Portland State, Fa’aopega can’t wait to get to Cheney to start putting work in, and as he said, “repay them back.”
“It was a big moment for me,” Fa’aopega said. “I thank Eastern for their love and support they’ve given me. They’ve been there from the start … they believe in me.”
Nellor didn’t need to sit on his decision after his official campus visit last month; he pulled head coach Aaron Best and tight ends coach Heath Pulver pulled them aside at the recruits’ dinner and gave his oral commitment to the Eagles.
Best walked back into the restaurant and announced it to the patrons, just one of the many reasons he found Cheney to be a special place.
“Everyone was cheering and happy and smiling,” Nellor said. “… to know that my new family is really a family and they’re going to love me for the next five years, it’s special.”
The trio of Tyrek McCullum, David MacDonald and Riley Miller all have something else in common, too. All three are relatively newbies in some way who found their path to college football.
Last fall was Miller’s first year as a starter, and he made the most of it by becoming the 4A Greater St. Helens League’s defensive MVP. MacDonald’s stock quickly rose once he turned out for football as a junior.
And McCullum’s one and only season of varsity football after moving to the Pacific Northwest from Ohio was enough for Western Oregon.
McCullum continues a relatively new trend for the NCAA Division II program. Western Oregon has dipped into Clark County heavily the past few years, and got five area commits Wednesday: McCullum, Skyview’s Tavis Pinkney, Columbia River’s Koben Jamison, Woodland’s Wyatt Harsh, and Battle Ground’s Aksel Fridriksson.
Keep the local talent has McCullum thinking big things are ahead for the Wolves, just like they were for Union in its league title-winning season in 2017.
“I feel like they’re a team on the rise,” McCullum said. “It’s only upside from here.”
2018 Four-year signees
- Lorigan Steuben, softball, Jamestown
- Morgan Stradley, softball, Regis
- Tyler Russell, baseball, Washington State
- Aksel Fridriksson, football, Western Oregon (PWO)
- Payton Bates, softball, College of Idaho
- Perrin Belzer, soccer, Grand Canyon University
- Courtney Clemmer, basketball, Oregon Tech
- Alexa Dietz, rowing, San Diego State
- Kennedy Ferguson, softball, New Mexico
- Dominic Fewel, soccer, Oregon State
- Madison Freemon, basketball, Cal State Fullerton
- Mark Kim, swimming, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
- Hailey Oster, golf, Montana State
- Madison Pfaff, volleyball, Corban University
- Madalyn Sherwinski, swimming, University of Mary (N.D.)
- Joshua Schneider, soccer, Willamette University
- Abbigail Wong, softball, University of Puget Sound
- Beau Braden, football, Washington State (PWO)
- Koben Jamison, football, Western Oregon
- Nathan Kunz, football, Montana Tech
- Josh Bottelberghe, swimming, Notre Dame
- Jacob Hjort, basketball, Western Oregon
- Robbie Meadors, football, Simon Frasier
- Canon Racanelli, football, Central Washington
- Matt Henry, football/baseball, George Fox
- Jennifer Baertlein, women’s soccer, Central Washington
- Alivia Quitugua, women’s soccer Southern Oregon
- Trinity Paulsen, women’s soccer, Washington
- Amber Griffith, softball, Willamette
- Angel Terry, football, Central Washington
- Reagan Lorey, bowling, Ottawa University
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN
- Damon Casetta-Stubbs, baseball, Seattle
- Sam Lauderdale, baseball, Washington State
- Brannan Meriwether, baseball, Linfield
- Joey Roberts, football, Rocky Mountain
- Zeek Fromel, football, Montana Tech
- Olivia Hood, women’s lacrosse, Arizona State
- Jessica Selby, women’s soccer, Southern Oregon
- Jack Hiller, football, Montana Tech
- Molly Edwards, basketball, Arizona Christian
- Saige Keep, baseball, Colorado Mesa
- Jacob Abrahamson, men’s golf, Grace College
- Dante Heitschmidt, men’s golf, George Fox
- Martina Downs, softball, Ottawa University
- Kylee Snider, softball, Baker University
- Tristan Glaser, men’s soccer, Evergreen State
- Christopher Henry, men’s soccer, Evergreen State
- Aryah Marlow, volleyball, George Fox
- Delainey Patterson, women’s golf, Corban
- Makenna Alfson, women’s soccer, Northwest Nazarene
- Kendal Spencer, women’s soccer, Humboldt State
- Kaylin Sperley, women’s soccer, Marist
- Tess Gould, Dance, Oklahoma City University
- Kiya Gere, women’s soccer, Minnesota-Crookston
- Cole Grossman, football, Montana
- Tavis Pinkney, football, Western Oregon
- Max Rose, football, Pomona-Pitzer
- Andrew Kabacy, tennis, University of Puget Sound
- Daniel Copeland, baseball, Gonzaga
- Michael Hickey, baseball, Central Washington
- Jackson McKinney, wrestling, Oregon State
- Ellen Burbank, cross country & track and field, St. Mary’s (Calif.)
- Sierra Kilmer, softball, Presentation College (S.D.)
- Courtney Davies, volleyball, Presentation College (S.D.)
- Lydia Dillon, softball, Boise State
- Nicole Christensen, softball, Colorado Mesa
- Julianne Hutley, soccer, George Fox
- Abby Fischer, softball, Oregon State
- Aiden Nellor, football, Eastern Washington
- Zion Faa’opega, football, Eastern Washington
- Riley Miller, football, Pacific (Ore.)
- David MacDonald, football, Southern Oregon
- Tyrek McCullum, football, Western Oregon
- Keith Lobis, golf, Gonzaga
- Maleya Burns, softball, Angelo State
- Makayla Woods, soccer, Washington
- Izzy Morales, soccer, Concordia
- Kiani Pandoliano, soccer, Southern Oregon
- Courtney Cranston, basketball, San Diego Christian
- Wyatt Harsh, football, Western Oregon