Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Eagle Point defensive lineman Tyrone Holmes changed course while North Medford girls soccer star Sarah Chambers held true to her chosen path to highlight local activity Wednesday during the first day for football and soccer players to sign their NCAA letters of intent.
Holmes, who had verbally committed to Portland State in November, was swayed by a recruiting trip he made last Saturday and signed his letter of intent to play football at the University of Montana in an afternoon ceremony at Eagle Point High.
Chambers and fellow North Medford soccer standout Amber Black had each made their college decisions known over a year ago and didn't flinch in signing with their respective schools. Chambers signed with Brigham Young University, while Black signed with St. Edward's University, an NCAA Division II school in Austin, Texas.
Southern Oregon University tabbed the services of South Medford's Matt Retzlaff, North Medford's Dillon Henke and Rogue River's Doug Francis in other football announcements Wednesday.
Several local football players are still waiting to make their final decisions, which is not uncommon for commitments beyond the NCAA Division I level. Among those who have made it known they're still mulling their options are South Medford's Jimmy Ditty, Jack Singler, Desmond Harrington and Kirk Eastman and Crater's Garrett Alner and Cole Berriochoa. Decisions for all are likely to come in the next few weeks.
For Eagle Point's Holmes, the decision to switch his commitment from Portland State to Montana was a difficult one, and certainly not one he anticipated prior to taking an official visit to Missoula, Mont., last weekend.
"When I committed I thought that was it and that's why I committed (in November) because I didn't want to have to go back on it," said Holmes, "but I had to do what was best for me. It was really, really tough but I had to make the right choice for me. There was a lot of pressure on from Portland State coaches obviously because they wanted me but in the end I had to do what was best for me and my family."
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Holmes averaged about one sack and 10 tackles per game this past season despite the best effort of opposing teams to steer clear of the first-team all-state defensive lineman. His speed and athleticism made Holmes a hot commodity on the recruiting trail, coming off a junior track and field season in which he won the Class 5A shot put state title with a heave of 56 feet, 33/4 inches and placed fourth in the 110-meter high hurdles in 15.16 seconds.
While the opportunity to join Portland State and its strong recruiting class for 2012 was enticing, Holmes said his trip to Montana made him realize where he was better suited to spend his college years — even though the Grizzlies didn't recruit him until recently.
"I really liked it up there," said Holmes. "It's a lot like here and I felt really comfortable with everything. I liked Portland State, too, but basically the lifestyle won out. Instead of living in a big city, Missoula is like living in Medford so it's that same type of atmosphere I'm used to and I really like that."
Joining Holmes in choosing Montana were fellow Oregonians Hayden Craig of Dayton High (tight end) and Marist's Taylor Walcott (wide receiver). Under the direction of former Sheldon High quarterback Jordan Johnson, Montana advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals this past season, shared the Big Sky Conference title with Montana State and finished 11-3 overall.
"Montana made it to the semis this year and they have a lot of tradition," said Holmes. "I know both teams are going to be really good because Portland State has a really good recruiting class this year. Either way it was going to be good football, it's just Montana seemed like a better fit for me."
Playing soccer at BYU always seemed like the best fit for Chambers, who expressed relief in finally making things official on Wednesday.
"I'm super excited about it and know I couldn't have made a better choice," said Chambers, who was the Black Tornado's leading scorer this past fall.
The 5-foot-2 standout said she's excited about the academic prospects at BYU as an engineering major, and is eager to get to training so she can make an immediate impact as an outside forward for the Cougars. BYU had its streak of six straight trips to the College Cup postseason tournament snapped this past season but still finished fourth in the West Coast Conference at 11-5-3 overall and 5-2-1 in WCC play.
For Black, joining St. Edwards University will be akin to going home. Most of her family lives in the Austin, Texas, area and she has been a routine visitor. The Hilltoppers went 15-3-1 this past season and were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament, the third straight season St. Edward's advanced to the postseason tourney.
Black's 5-11 frame is ideal for playing up top in a forward position but she's also been a strong central midfielder for the Black Tornado. Having to wait an entire year to sign with the school she originally committed to gave Black a moment of pause, but not enough to reconsider her choice.
"With all that time you kinda have to start thinking about if you're making the right decision and second-guessing yourself," she said, "but when it came down to it, I was 100 percent it was the right school for me."