When Army and Fordham meet to open the 2015 football season, friends might turn into foes.
Old Mill's Noah Fitzgerald made it official on Wednesday when he signed his National Letter of Intent to play at Fordham, while teammate Donovan Franklin signed his acceptance letter to the United States Military Academy. The only thing standing in the way between the two friends lining up against each other on Sept. 4 is an SAT score high enough for Franklin to enter the Army directly as opposed to reporting to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, which is also located in West Point, N.Y. Franklin will take the SAT on Saturday.
"Right now, I'm in the prep school, but I have a chance to go directly to the Academy," said Franklin, shortly after signing his acceptance letter on Wednesday at Old Mill. "There's a really good chance I can go straight in."
Franklin, who wasn't heavily recruited despite rushing for more than 1,800 yards and leading the Patriots to the state final, reached out to Army in early December. The recruiter at Army, Orlando Mitjans, was surprised at the lack of offers for Franklin, who was a first-team All-County selection.
The Black Knights were recruiting speed after the graduation of three running backs who all rushed for close to 1,000 yards and made an offer to Franklin within a few weeks of their initial conversation.
"It feels good. It feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Franklin, who unbuttoned his dress shirt following Wednesday's ceremony to reveal an Army Black Knights T-shirt underneath. "It's good to know where I'm going and what I'm going to be doing. It's a sense of relief."
Fitzgerald, one of the top linebackers in the county and a first-team All-County selection, had several offers to consider and eventually settled on Fordham, which is located in the Bronx, N.Y. and competes in the Patriot League.
"For me, it was an easy decision. Going to Fordham is the best of both worlds for me," Fitzgerald said. "It has a top-10 football team, great academics and the location was perfect for me."
Franklin and Fitzgerald were two of the key pieces for an Old Mill football team that started the 2014 season 0-2, but won 11 straight before falling to Northwest in the Class 4A state final at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
"One of the best things is these two young men are such great role models for our players who are going to be in the program in the future," Old Mill coach Chad McCormick said. "You have to have the football ability, but these guys are going to two strong academic schools. It's really special for us."
Fordham will play Connecticut the second week of the season, which means Fitzgerald will go against Severna Park's Chris Lee, who made his commitment to Connecticut official on Wednesday.
At Arundel, football coach Chuck Markiewicz mentioned several times that he's never smiled so much in one day. And he had good reason, as six Wildcats signed National Letters of Intent with Div. I or II schools, while four others have committed to Div. III schools.
A pair of first-team All-County selections, Diondre Wallace (Towson) and Victor Mack (Bowie State), made their selections official, joining second-team selections Isaiah Watson (Marist) and Aaron Jackson (Marist), along with Bryson McAdams (Bowie State) and Curtis Cropper (West Virginia State).
"I don't know if we've ever had this many, maybe one or two less," Markiewicz said. "We've sent quite a few kids to school every year, but this is probably the most we've had in any one year. We're proud of them. They've worked real hard."
Anthony Messenger, Arren Porter and Deven Tyler have each committed to Div.III Moravian College and Andrew Eagle will join his brother, Austin, on the offensive line at Wesley College, which fell to Mount Union in last year's Div. III semifinals.
"They're smart, because they've used football as a vehicle to do what they've done today," Markiewicz said. "The reason that they're doing this is because they've qualified to get in these schools. When you're a kid you have to dream, and now they have an opportunity to live it."
Meade had three players sign with Div. II programs on Wednesday—Elijah Roberts (College of Notre Dame—Ohio), Dominique Hudson (West Liberty State) and Troy Brown (Glenville State).
Annapolis resident Richie Petitbon, whose father, Richie Petitbon, Sr., played at Maryland, signed with national runner-up Alabama on Wednesday. The younger Petitbon, who played at Gonzaga Prep in Washington, D.C., is the No. 4-ranked offensive guard in the country and the 51st overall prospect by Rivals.com. He was also named a first-team Parade All-American over the weekend. He had offers from several Div. I schools, including Maryland.
In addition to the football players in the county who signed on Wednesday, there were also some notable boys and girls soccer signings.
Two of the top boys soccer players in the county last year made their choices official. Broadneck's Tyler Gabarra signed with North Carolina State, while Severna Park's Daniel Kwon has committed to the Naval Academy.
The Capital Gazette's girls soccer player of the year, Arundel's Jenna Surdick, signed with Coastal Carolina. Surdick anchored an Arundel defense that recorded 12 shutouts last year and gave up only eight goals. The first-team All-State selection also scored five goals.
"It's really exciting," said Surdick, moments after signing her National Letter of Intent Wednesday morning. "It represents my dedication to soccer and everything I've done and given up for it."
Severn's Jasmine Wright signed with the University of Virginia, Broadneck's Mikayla Krinetz and South River's Katie Berkowitz will play for UMBC and Mary August became Rockbridge Academy's first Div. I athlete when she committed to the Naval Academy.
Here is a list provided by county coaches of athletes who signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Email sports@capgaznews to add to the list.
Diondre Wallace (Arundel), Towson
Isaiah Watson (Arundel), Marist
Aaron Jackson (Arundel), Marist
Victor Mack (Arundel), Bowie State
Bryson McAdams (Arundel), Bowie State
Curtis Cropper (Arundel), West Virginia State
Alec Ruden (Broadneck), Bryant
Chris Lee (Severna Park), Connecticut
Elijah Roberts (Meade), College of Notre Dame (Ohio)
Dominique Hudson (Meade), West Liberty State
Troy Brown (Meade), Glenville State
Noah Fitzgerald (Old Mill), Fordham
Richie Petitbon (Annapolis resident/Gonzaga), Alabama
Alex Plotkin (Archbishop Spalding), Bryant
Jenna Surdick (Arundel), Coastal Carolina
Mikayla Krinetz (Broadneck), UMBC
Katie Berkowitz (South River), UMBC
Aly Hill (South River), Liberty
Emily Simpkins (North County), Concord
Jasmine Wright (Severn), Virginia
Julianna Smith (Southern), Marshall
Courtney Johnson (Chesapeake), Pace
Jordan Jones (Chesapeake), Longwood
Tyler Gabarra (Broadneck), N.C. State
Justin Snyder (Chesapeake) Stetson
Pat Brennan (Chesapeake), UMBC