Tohopekaliga High School experience many first in its first year, in both the classroom and the athletic fields.
Last week, those realms met when the Tigers held their first scholarship signing ceremony.
Soccer player Stephon Davis, who spent seasons at Harmony and St. Cloud before coming to Tohopekaliga, signed last week with Division II Lees-McRae College in tiny Banner Elk, N.C., a town of 1,028 residents.
This week, linebacker Bryon Fraley became the school’s first football signee, inking with Keizer University in Fort Lauderdale.
Davis said he had no reservations about coming into a brand new program for his senior year.
“I knew this (signing) would still happen,” he said. “I wanted to come in and make history. We made it for the team and I made it for myself (being the first-ever Tiger signee). It was a great group of guys. We really had to come together because we couldn’t play our home games here (the Tigers played more than a mile away at Austin-Tindall Park).”
He noted other Florida schools in the mix, like Jacksonville University, but Lees-McRae offered the best financial fit and the best chance for him to play and improve. Davis played on the wing for the Tigers and Coach Eddie Fernandez.
“It was the best fit for me, and it’s such a great place,” said Davis, who plans to major in accounting.
Fernandez’s team had some of the most success of the Tigers’ teams this year, going 6-12 and logging wins over county foes Poinciana, Gateway, Osceola and Liberty.
“Stephon set the bar for us really high this year, and set the table for the future here,” the coach said of Davis. “He’s very consistent and always determined. I see a lot of good things in just the three months I got to work with him. He has teammates who want to be where he is. He’s an amazing athlete, student and person.”
Ferndanez, who works a lot in the local club soccer program scene, said having patience will be his biggest challenge.
“What if you don’t start? You started all your life, now you have to be patient to contribute, if the coaches ask Davis, who’s played the wing, to play left back, are you going to be flexible?”
The Lees-McRae Bobcats, a member of Conference Carolinas, were 8-7-2 last season and graduate their leading scorer. They had a run of Division II national appearances from 2009-11, and boast former U.S. National Team member and MLS star Roy Lassiter among their alumni.