A total of nine McPherson High football seniors signed their letters of intent to play ball at the collegiate level Wednesday as part of the National Signing Day.
Five of the players elected to play for Highland Community College starting this fall. The quintet includes standout 5-9 running back Austin O’Bannon, lineman Jaelon Barnes, offensive and defensive back Dalton Clark, defensive end Austin Clary and lineman Collin French.
O’Bannon picked up nods to the All-AVCTL first team in his junior and senior years, and was named first team All-State by the Kansas Football Coaches Association as a senior.
French was selected to play in the Kansas Shrine Bowl this summer, on top of All-AVCTL first team selections for both offense and defense.
Barnes was a first-team AVCTL selection as an offensive lineman this past season. Clark was selected All-AVCTL second team as a running back and a linebacker.
The five signings reflect the recruiting philosophy of Highland head coach Ryan Held, who wanted to focus his efforts in-state.
“You have to start with Kansas, and if you don’t get Kansas kids, you won’t make it, especially on the offensive line,” Held said. “When it is all said and done, it will be a night and day difference here. All positions will be upgraded, and I feel very good about the direction of the program.”
Highland went 2-7 this past season, Held’s first, which was an improvement over a winless 2011 season.
Tight end James Mowery and linebacker Travis Steenson both signed with Butler County Community College Wednesday.
Steenson was selected to the All-State first team this past season by the KFCA and was selected first team AVCTL, also. Mowery received an AVCTL honorable mention nod this past season.
The Grizzlies came just short of capturing the NJCAA championship, falling 27-7 to Iowa Western on Dec. 2.
Marcus Houghton, who proved his worth as a wide receiver, safety and kicker in his time with the Bullpups, signed to play this fall with Emporia State University.
Houghton was selected to the All-AVCTL first team in this past post-season as a defensive back and second team honors as a receiver.
He joins a Hornet team that went 10-2 in 2012, including a 45-38 win in the Kanza Bowl over Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
MidAmerica Nazarene received a commitment from defensive back and wide receiver Tanner Hamilton, who capped his senior year with an All-AVCTL second team nod on defense.
The Pioneers went 8-3 in 2012, falling in the first-round of the NAIA Football Championship Series to the University of the Cumberlands on Nov. 17.
MHS is coming off a 10-2 season that ended in the third round of the Class 4A state championship tournament with a loss to eventual 4A champ Holton.