It's that time of year again when area high school athletes make their decisions on where they will continue their academic and athletic careers.
Wednesday was the first day that high school seniors could sign a binding national letter of intent to college football with an NCAA school. Signings for other sports also can take place on the first Wednesday of February.
Howland sends four to the next level, including two to Ivy League colleges and one to the Big Ten Conference; five signed from Brookfield, all for football; and three Austintown students signed for football. Other area schools represented were Canfield, Ursuline and McDonald, two signings each; and one each from Niles, Poland, Lakeview and Springfield.
Tribune Chronicle / Ed Puskas
Howland High School athletes, from left, Anthony Stanko, Dan Moody, Taylor Williams and Sydney Perez sign national letters of intent Wednesday during a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.
From Howland, Anthony Stanko will play football at Penn State and Dan Moody will go to Harvard, while Taylor Williams has decided to attend Princeton to play basketball.
Stanko said he never wavered in his decision to commit to the Nittany Lions even after the sex abuse scandal and the firing and death of longtime coach Joe Paterno that have engulfed the program.
"There was a little bit of sadness after the death and when the whole scandal thing came out, but now that I've had a chance to meet all the coaches, I'm really excited about what's going to happen," said Stanko, who is the sixth Howland football player to move on to the Big Ten in the last 10 years. "It's really sad how coach Paterno had to go out, but there's a really bright future.
Who's going where?
Local athletes who have signed letters of intent and where they are headed:
Chris Davis, Pittsburgh
Demitrious Davis, Pittsburgh
Will Mahone, Notre Dame
Aaron Gillis, Slippery Rock
Cory Mild, Hiram
Brandon Mosora, Hiram
Mike Johnson, Bethany
Mark Hiner, Bethany
Jordan Italiano, Kent State
Jim Rousher, Miami of Ohio
Anthony Stanko, Penn State
Dan Moody, Harvard
Patrick Barrett, Notre Dame
Colin Reardon, Kent State
Troy Vasquez-Atkins, Notre Dame
Ty Vasquez-Atkins, Notre Dame
Taylor Williams, Princeton
Track & field
Lauren Schattinger, Miami of Ohio
Paige Eckman, Youngstown State
Kyle Joynes, Youngstown State
Stephen Lyons, Eastern Michigan
Sydney Perez, Akron
"I'm really excited about the future. Coach (Bill) O'Brien and all the coaches he's put in place are really awesome. They're really good people and I think it's going to be a really great experience."
Stanko added the enthusiasm of the Penn State fan base played a big factor in his decision to attend the school over suitors such as Ohio State and West Virginia.
"The personality of everybody on the campus," he said. "The fans are just outrageous. I've never seen anything like it, 110,000 people doing the same thing at the same exact time."
Moody said the rich tradition of Harvard was the main selling point to him.
"The prestige of the university appealed to me, the success of its academic program as well as its recent success in football really appealed to me as a student-athlete," he said.
As far as the memories of his time with the Tigers, Stanko said, "The Harding games are going to be big memories. It's something that nobody thought we were going to accomplish; nobody thought we could beat Harding two years in a row. Those games against our rivals, like Poland and Canfield and Niles, are always going to be in the back of my mind."
Moody said he is undecided on his major, but said he is leaning toward science, math or medicine.
"I'd like to stay involved in football in some way," he said. "I could see myself as an orthopedic surgeon, maybe working with football teams closely, helping athletes stay healthy and continue in their careers as well."
In her four-year varsity career, Williams has set numerous school records and said attending Princeton will help her reach her peak performance.
"They're not only a good academic school but their women's basketball team is also very successful," she said. "I believe I work better under pressure, so I think Princeton is going to push me to my limits, which I really want on and off the court."
Williams said her goal-setting abilities will serve her well in college.
"Going into high school I set my own goals, so going into Princeton, especially academics-wise, you have to set goals that push you to work hard in whatever situation you're placed in," she said.
The fourth Howland athlete to sign Wednesday was Sydney Perez, who signed with Akron to play soccer.
"I didn't want to go far, and I really wanted to go to a great school, and it just so happened that Akron's an amazing school and they have an amazing soccer program, and it really caught my attention," she said. "The first time I thought of Akron, I never thought of another school after that."
Perez missed her entire senior season with a torn ACL, but said the injury was a blessing in disguise.
"It was really hard at first," she said. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen with soccer and the future and college. It was sad for me, but I try to think positive, because I feel like when stuff like that happens it only makes you stronger. I felt like it made me a better person and I got to know myself a little better."
From Austintown, twin brothers Chris and Demitrious Davis and Will Mahone are all moving on to college to play football, the Davises at Pittsburgh and Mahone at Notre Dame.
"This is the best of both worlds, really," Mahone said. "It's one of the top schools in the country, and definitely a program on the rise in football. Coach (Brian) Kelly's doing a great job bringing Notre Dame football back."
Mahone played running back and defensive back for the Falcons and said he would prefer to play on offense but is open for anything.
"That was a big deciding factor,'' he said. "I've only talked offense with them to play running back. But if things don't work out at running back, I'll be happy to play defensive back, but I'd like my shot at running back."
Mahone said he plans on majoring in either business or communications.
"In their business school after they graduate, 98 percent percent of them come out with a job within three months, so that's a very good thing in this economy these days," he said.
Both Chris and Demitrious Davis said Fitch coach Phil Annarella was a big influence in their development as student-athletes.
"He preached character and focusing on our grades," Chris said. "He's a great coach and I like he just didn't focus on the football part."
"He led us down a great path keeping our heads on straight," Demitrious said. "Doing the right thing and just not getting into bad stuff. He just preached every day about character."
Other local players who signed on Wednesday were Aaron Gillis (Slippery Rock), Cory Mild (Hiram), Brandon Mosora (Hiram), Mike Johnson (Bethany) and Mark Hiner (Bethany) of Brookfield, all for football; Jordan Italiano (Kent State) and Jim Rousher (Miami of Ohio) of Canfield for football; Paige Eckman (Youngstown State) and Kyle Joynes (Youngstown State) of McDonald for track and cross country; Patrick Barrett (Notre Dame College) of Niles for football; Colin Reardon (Kent State) of Poland for football; Troy Vasquez-Atkins (Notre Dame College) and Ty Vasquez-Atkins (Notre Dame College), both of Ursuline, for football; Lauren Schattinger (Miami of Ohio) of Lakeview for track; and Stephen Lyons (Eastern Michigan) of Springfield for track.