WILLIS — The Willis Wildkats kicked off National Signing Day early Wednesday morning with six of their finest athletes making their college commitments official.
First-year football coach Michael Wall had three sign — offensive tackle King McGowen to Lousiana-Lafayette, defensive back Devonte Nephew to Jersey Coast Academy and slot receiver JerMichael Dickerson to Henderson State.
Softball player Hailey Eten inked with East Central University while soccer players Kaitlyn Drewniok (Howard Payne University) and Crisely Pavon (Texas Southern) signed as well.
McGowen, a three-star recruit according to 247 Sports’ rankings, overcame injury during his senior year. During the season, he was verbally committed to SMU, but recently de-committed and stated that the Ragin’ Cajuns felt like a better fit over time.
McGowen injured his foot in Week 1 against Huntsville and only played four games this year.
“He was the first man I noticed when I got here,” Wall told the audience. “A big 6-foot-5, awesome-looking athlete. When I first got out here to watch us do agility, this guy moves around extremely well. I’ve coached a lot of talented kids in my life and King is as good of a tackle coming out of high school that I’ve ever seen.”
Dickerson has been used all over the field for the Wildkats in his career from quarterback to wide receiver to return specialist. His flexibility was a tremendous trait in the eyes of recruiters.
Dickerson ultimately choose Henderson State and said that the Reddies have plans to primarily use him as a slot receiver. But he could also provide explosive plays from other spots on offense. And possibly defense too.
“I just like that the spirit there,” Dickerson said. “It’s a nice school. The coaches all welcome you and they talk to you like you’re already one them. It’s just a nice place.”
Said Wall of Dickerson’s senior year, “He was electric. Every time I would shake hands with the opposing coach before the game, they would ask me ‘Where’s (uniform) No. 1 going to be tonight?’. He was the guy they were always trying to stop against our offense.”
Nephew is a two-time All-District defensive back. He also has the skills to play offense and on special teams.
“He stood out to me very early,” Wall said. “He’s been our defensive leader. He’s a guy that was a returning All-District player.”
In a different sport, Eten has shown versatility on varsity for four years with the Ladykats. She was a catcher as a sophomore on the state tournament team and moved to outfield last year. She will be back at catcher this season according to new head coach Lyndsey Lipscomb, who previously was an assistant with the Ladykats.
“This year, she’s going to play catcher and outfield for us,” Lipscomb said. “She’s a hard worker and a great leader on the field as a catcher. She’s very vocal and someone that has helped our program. We’re going to miss her (after this season), but we’re excited to see what she can do at ECU.”
Willis girls soccer coach Brandy King praised Drewniok for her spirit and enthusiasm that she brings to the Ladykats on the soccer field. Drewniok has been on varsity since her sophomore year.
“She’s probably one of the most level-headed players I’ve ever coached,” King said. “Nothing bothers her, nothing rattles her on the field. She doesn’t have a bad day. She comes in every day the same kid day in and day out. She probably doesn’t know how much a coach appreciates that.”
Pavon, one of the Ladykats’ biggest scoring threats on the field, is always watching film and trying to learn how to get better. A student of the game, King described her as.
“She’s critiquing herself,” King said. “She doesn’t critique anyone else. She’s trying to find out what she can do better to make her team better. She is very much about team and her teammates.”