Five prep football standouts from Hannibal, Mark Twain and Palmyra signed their national letters of intent Wednesday to play college football.
Five Courier-Post area prep football standouts signed their national letters of intent Wednesday to play college football.
The signees include:
- Shamar Griffith, Hannibal, Missouri Western State University
- Will Sewell, Hannibal, Lincoln University
- Mika Taganeca, Hannibal, Missouri Valley College
- Dalton Hill, Mark Twain, Missouri Western State University
- Jory Maddox, Palmyra, Central Methodist University
Griffith ‘truly blessed’ to join Missouri Western
Hannibal senior running back Shamar Griffith doesn’t like to look back and bask in what he accomplished during his four record-breaking years as a Hannibal Pirate.
His eyes are fully focused forward.
Griffith, a 5-foot-6 all-state speedster who holds the school record for most career rushing yards, signed his national letter of intent to become a Missouri Western State Griffon on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m truly blessed,” Griffith said. “A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to play at the next level out of high school. I thank God everyday for letting me wake up and blessing me with the talent he did. I give all the glory to God, because without him, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”
Griffith said he expects to continue coming out of the backfield for the Griffons, a NCAA Division II program in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“Hopefully, I get to come out the backfield like normal, but I hope I can be an all-purpose player and play any position — kickoff return, punt return. Just use me anywhere,” he said.
Griffith said he was all-in on Missouri Western after his official visit on Jan. 17.
“I felt like I was at home, and that was the No. 1 thing,” he said.
Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair said the Griffons, based in St. Joseph, Missouri, are getting more than just a top-rate football player in Griffith.
“You can’t miss with a kid like Shamar,” St. Clair said. “He’s not just a good football player. He’s going to be a good teammate. He’s going to be a good student. It’s somebody they want to have on campus. He’s been that way at Hannibal High School.”
While he’ll be joining a new team, Griffith said he won’t forget the impact St. Clair had on him and the support of those around him in Hannibal.
“The main thing I’m always going to remember is the community and how they supported the Hannibal Pirates as a football team as a whole,” he said.
Griffith, who plans to major in biology, hopes he gets more than just a degree out of the next few years.
“I’m hoping it’ll lead me to play Sunday mornings and Sunday nights,” he said.
‘Great feeling’ for Sewell to begin new chapter at Lincoln
Hannibal senior Will Sewell knows how to win.
As a Pirate, he has been a key contributor on a team that has made two straight deep runs in the state playoffs.
Now, the aggressive, hard-hitting outside linebacker is ready to bring his track record of success to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Sewell signed his national letter of intent with the Blue Tigers program at the Hannibal High School library Wednesday.
“It’s very exciting starting a new chapter of my life,” Sewell said. “It’s a great feeling.”
The senior, who racked up 64 tackles this past season, said he was sold on the program once he realized it was a chance to be part of a turnaround.
“It was the direction I see the football program going in,” he said. “In the past, they weren’t as good as they should have been, but with a new coaching staff and my recruiting coach as well, I feel like they’re going to be in the direction of doing great things, and I want to be a part of that.”
Lincoln, a NCAA Division II team, is part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Sewell said playing at the collegiate level will challenge him, and it’s up to him to be ready.
“Hopefully, if I get in the weight room, it won’t be that big of a jump,” he said.
St. Clair said he thinks Sewell will “surprise a lot of people early on.”
“Will brings a lot to the table,” St. Clair said. “At Lincoln, they’re trying change their culture there, trying to get a winning program. This is a kid who knows how to win. He’s come a long way here at Hannibal and been a good leader for us. They’re getting a quality athlete and a quality student.”
Sewell said it’s always been a dream of his to play at the collegiate level. Still, it’s bittersweet to move on from his high school team.
“Here in Hannibal, we have so much love for the passion of football, so I’m going to miss that sort of passion in this city,” he said.
Rapid-riser Taganeca ‘hyped’ to play at Missouri Valley
Hannibal senior Mika Taganeca readily admits he didn’t always take the game of football seriously.
That changed this past season, when the 6-foot-1, 255-pound lineman devoted himself to becoming a valuable asset up front for the Pirates.
“For the first couple years, I didn’t take anything serious and I was kind of goofing around,” he said. “Come my senior year, I started locking in, becoming more mature and playing better.”
His rapid ascent not only helped Hannibal reach the state quarterfinals this past year. It was also a key reason he received an offer to play at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri.
Taganeca signed his national letter of intent with the Vikings program at the Hannibal High School library on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m pretty hyped to make a decision like this to further my education and go to a college that has a top-notch defense,” he said, adding he plans to major in exercise science.
The senior totaled 42 tackles his senior season, including six for loss, while also standing firm as a stalwart on the offensive line.
Taganeca’s ability to play both sides of the ball should make him a contributor for the Vikings, St. Clair said.
“I think Missouri Valley got a steal with him myself,” St. Clair said. “He’s a kid that can play either side of the ball for them. He’s going to get bigger, he’s going to get stronger, and anybody that’s been around the kid knows that he’s just fun to be around.”
St. Clair called Taganeca “one of the most improved players we’ve had here at a long time.”
“When you take where he was at as a freshman and his improvement he’s made particularly over the last year, but over four years of high school,” St. Clair said, “this is a young man that developed himself into a good football player. He always had a few skills, but the bottomline was he worked for what he’s got.”
Hill joins forces with Missouri Western
Mark Twain Tigers senior Dalton Hill is excited for all the pancakes coming his way at Missouri Western.
Pancake blocks, that is.
Hill, a 6-foot-1, 241-pound offensive lineman, signed his national letter of intent with the Griffons program on Wednesday afternoon.
After blocking for a team that rushed for upward of 4,300 yards this past season, Hill said he looks forward to the opportunity to pave the way for playmakers on his college squad, including Hannibal commit Shamar Griffith.
Hill finished his senior year with 34 pancake blocks — a term describing blocks that leave the defender on his back.
“I expect to block for our running backs and make things happen,” Hill said. “(I will do) my job, my assignment every single time to the best of my ability and finish the defensive lineman.”
Hill said he was comfortable right away when he visited the NCAA Division II level school in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“It felt like home as soon as I was on campus,” he said.
Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury said Griffons first-year coach Matt Williamson is getting “a fiery competitor.”
“He’s a true warrior in the trenches,” Asbury said of his all-state blocker. “He wants to go up there and battle and go to the end. That’s the type of thing we want to do. We want to finish. If you finish your block and put the guy on the ground, there’s no way that guy can make a tackle. You did your part in the 11.”
Hill said he wouldn’t be the player he is without the Mark Twain community around him.
“I’ve had a lot of support from my friends, family and coaching staff to make me the player that I am today,” he said. “I’ve worked hard over the years and pursued football and my passion to play at the college level. I want to look back and say I had the best time of my life.”
Maddox inks with Central Methodist
Palmyra senior Jory Maddox found a perfect fit with the Central Methodist football program.
His college decision ultimately was not too stressful.
“There wasn’t really a huge choice to make,” Maddox said. “This was the place for me.”
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound force signed his national letter of intent Wednesday morning to join the Eagles out of Fayette, Missouri.
After playing a variety of positions throughout his high school career, the standout was recruited as a middle linebacker — his “favorite position” he’s ever played.
“It’s very exciting going to the next level playing football,” he said. “There’s no better feeling I’ve had so far in my life. I’ve always wanted to play college football. I’ve always wanted to play football since I was little. It’s insane being able to do this. It’s been a dream.”
Palmyra head coach Kevin Miles said Maddox has grown tremendously over the past four years.
As a sophomore, Maddox first earned a starting spot as an offensive lineman. By his senior year, he relished the move to tight end, taking on more of a playmaker role.
As a key contributor on both sides of the ball, the all-district selection finished third on the team this past season with 63 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss and five sacks.
“(Central Methodist) is going to get a kid that’ll be the first one there, the last one to leave,” Miles said. “He’s a hard-working kid that’s super athletic, super talented and will be a very successful player for them.”
Maddox said he feels prepared for the jump to the NAIA Division I level.
“Being at Palmyra as a whole, you get better no matter who you are,” he said. “I think I can make it. I think my skills are good enough, but it’s going to be a process. I’m going to have to get used to it. Adjusting is going to be the biggest part of it.”
While he’s looking forward to the next step of his gridiron journey, Maddox said he never will forget his fellow Panther teammates who helped get him there.
“We might be a mischievous class, we’re something else, but just playing with my friends … you can’t describe the brotherhood we have,” he said. “It’s amazing.”