Sunday February 14th, 2016 5:10AM
5:24PM ( 11 hours ago ) Weather Alert

National Signing Day: Dreams realized for hundreds of local athletes

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Brenquez and Brenquese Dukes have been inseparable since birth -- so why stop now?

The Gainesville High football twins admit there was an occasional thought about heading their separate ways on the collegiate gridiron. But blood proved thick enough to keep the Red Elephants seniors united in football and education, as the Dukes brothers opted for a package deal to Middle Georgia State College on National Signing Day.

"We have a bond that is unbreakable, and when we're together on the field together we're unstoppable," Brenquese Dukes said. "Why would we want to end that?"

Hundreds of athletes throughout northeast Georgia were busy keeping their athletic careers going on Wednesday, putting pen to paper in inking Letters of Intent to play for the collegiate programs of their choice.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Check back later for Signing Day reflections from players from around northeast Georgia.)

"It was tough at times to find the right fit for both of us," Brenquez Dukes said. "But we found the perfect fit in the end."

While the Dukes' brothers situation was perhaps unique throughout the entire area, their efforts and journey shared much in common with almost every other athlete that committed their athletic futures on Wednesday.

For while the recruiting journeys of players like Deshaun Watson, Andrew Smith and Hunter Atkinson were filled with their own intrigue, the stars blessed to sign with Football Bowl Subdivision schools are more the anomaly. And of the near 50 athletes honored at the Hall County Fellowship of Christian Athletes signing day event on Wednesday in Gainesville, the majority pursued their futures, rather than the other way around.

"In track recruiting you have to reach out to coaches and get things going," said West Hall shot put standout Jarlissa Lattimore, who signed with Wingate University in Wingate, N.C. "It's a lot of work, but it started to pay off. And once you get interest from one school, others start to get involved."

North Hall soccer standout Alden Powell, who is headed to play at Shorter University in Rome, felt the added pressure of watching several teammates make early commitments while she held off to try and find the best fit.

"It was stressful," Powell said. "I felt like I was the last one to make a decision, but I finally found the school I liked best, and I'm glad I took the time now."

While their journeys toward Signing Day all took unique twists and turns one factor unified the entire signing class of northeast Georgia: Relief.

"I always had this dream, and I pursued it relentlessly," said North Hall football player Will Cape, who is headed to help start the program at Kennesaw State. "I worked out at CES (Competitive Edge Sports Performance) every summer and spent time with players like (former NFL and Atlanta Falcons standout) Ray Buchanan. And now it just feels awesome. I can't wait to get there and start working."

For those players staring at their final prep seasons, knowing their future beyond high school could prove enlivening.

"Knowing everything is set makes it so much easier," said Flowery Branch baseball player Dylan Gibeau, who is headed to play for Young Harris College. "Now I can just focus on being my best every game without having to worry about what happens if I have a bad game and if that will effect my future."

The future was very much on the collective minds of athletes, families, fans and coaches around the area -- and nation -- on Wednesday, whether it was majors, the thought of leaving home or the hope of playing time.

"As of signing today I'm the third string quarterback, so I'm going in knowing I have a chance to contribute immediately," said Flowery Branch quarterback Jackson McDonald, who is headed to Western Carolina University. "Right now it's just about how quickly I can adjust and work up to speed."

"I'm expecting a lot to be thrown at me," West Hall soccer standout and future Piedmont College player Kristen Newstrom said. "I don't think there will be a day off...

"But I'm looking forward to it. This is amazing, a dream come true."

And what is Signing Day if not a moment for the realization of dreams -- and adding a few new ones?
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 1 year ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys semifinals: Unbeatens Johnson, Red Elephants roll into finals
Both Gainesville and Johnson powered their way into the Lanierland Tournament finals on Monday. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday for the title at 8:30 p.m. at Chestatee.
10:01AM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland girls semifinals: GHS, Lady Falcons advance to finals <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Flowery Branch and Gainesville each took impressive wins Monday to advance to the Lanierland Tournament finals...
10:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Girls basketball: Lady Tigers advance to Pickens Holiday finals
The Dawson County girls basketball advanced to the finals of the Pickens Holiday Classic after an 81-54 win over Riverwood Monday.
11:48PM ( 1 year ago )
High School Sports
FCA East-West contest gives one more shot for area stars to shine <b>(VIDEO)</b>
Talk to the coaches, players and fans lucky enough to take part on Friday, and it
12:13PM ( 1 year ago )
High School Football 2014: A special season brings with it many firsts
The FCA East-West All-Star Game wraps up the 2014 campaign tonight in Gainesville. And oh what a season it has been...
9:30PM ( 1 year ago )
Four area teams finish season ranked inside top 10
Four area teams ended the 2014 season ranked inside the top 10 of the Georgia Sports Writers Association Prep Football Poll.
10:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Friday Game Night
7-AAA Tournament: Lady Spartans seal magical run; Vikings go back to the top
One was relentless, the other resilient. One has been there before -- numerous times -- the other a novice.
10:09AM ( 4 hours from now )
8-AAAAA Tournament: Lady Falcons capture first-ever region crown; GHS boys fall to Cedar Shoals in title game
So far, the Flowery Branch girls basketball team is 4-for-4 on the season...
10:03AM ( 4 hours from now )
8-A Tournament: Lakeview boys and girls surge to region championships
Four months ago Todd Cottrell and John Carrick knew they had plenty of potential on their hands.
9:59AM ( 4 hours from now )
STATE CHAMPS: Commerce, Jefferson continue title runs at Traditional tourney; North Hall 2nd
Commerce and Jefferson continued their dominating ways in Class A and Class AAA, respectively, at the 2016 GHSA Treaditional wrestling tournament Saturday at the Infinite Energy Arena. North Hall took an impressive second place in Class AAAA.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:40AM ( 4 hours from now )
(VIDEO) 8-AAAA Tournament: Buford boys push past North Hall; Lady Wolves stunned in championship
The Buford girls basketball team cruised through the Region 8-AAAA regular season schedule...
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:26AM ( 4 hours from now )