By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
Five student athletes signed their national letters of intent on Wednesday afternoon at McKinney High in front of a large room of family and friends.
Two football players signed their intent letters, both of whom were key contributors in the Lions resurgence in 2012. Red Shannon signed with San Angelo State University and Connor Fuentes signed with Southeastern Oklahoma University.
Shannon ran for a team-high 691 yards and five touchdowns last season, while also catching 50 receptions for 738 yards and eight touchdowns. He scored a team-high 92 points for the Lions.
“When I went on the official visit I really liked it a lot,” said Shannon. “I already knew about the school because my sister went there, and the coaches seemed like they really want me there.”
Shannon plans to major in finance and said he is most nervous about trying to repeat the kind of season he had his senior year at MHS.
“The size and speed of the game will be different,” said Shannon. “It will be really hard coming off a season like I had here.”
Most of all, Shannon will miss the special feeling that comes with playing on Friday nights.
“I’ll miss hanging out with the coaches, laughing, and just going out every Friday night and playing the game. I’ll miss all of that.”
Fuentes was a big piece of the Lions offense during his time at McKinney High, as he finished in the top-five in the area in receiving yards with 1,062 yards on 72 receptions. He also had 10 receiving touchdowns.
Fuentes said he was impressed with Southeastern Oklahoma after visiting the school, and said he plans to major in pharmacy.
“I really like the environment and the coaches seem really nice,” said Fuentes.
When asked what he will miss most about not playing at McKinney again, he said he would miss the little things that make up the tradition of MHS.
“The thing I’ll probably miss most is the tradition, we have so much fun here and there are so many things we do together, like team dinner. It’s a lot of fun. I’ll miss stuff like that,” said Fuentes.
Two girls soccer players signed in the early afternoon, as Natalie Throneberry signed with Abilene Christian University and Lizzie Navarette signed with Midwestern State.
“It was a small Christian school and their soccer team really interested me because they play the same style of soccer I like to play,” said Throneberry.
Throneberry chose ACU over St. Edwards and Hardin-Simmons, and said she will have a chance to compete for playing time as a forward her first year on campus.
“I hope so,” she said. “That is kind of what they have been telling me.”
“I was just thinking about Natalie because her first year she wasn’t very happy about the way she was playing,” said Lionettes head soccer coach Alex Pantarotto. “So we put her back on JV, and that summer we asked her to take part in the Performance Course. She flourished there, and that summer made a huge difference in her life, because when she returned she became the Newcomer of the Year in the district. Of course right now she is the leading scorer for the team.”
Throneberry said she has learned a lot about the game of soccer and what it takes to be successful at the sport from her time at McKinney High.
“The ability to read the field and how to make certain runs for players is what I’ve learned the most how to do,” said Throneberry. “(Coach Pantarotto) has taught me a lot about leadership and how to control a team.”
Navarette was almost a teammate of Throneberry at ACU, but chose Midwestern because of the campus. She also had interest from McNeese St. and Stephen F. Austin.
“I didn’t think it would be this exciting until like an hour before the signing, but I am just happy all my friends are here with me,” said Navarette.
“Lizzie always helps the team with the type of position game that we play,” said Navarette. “She is a very skillful player and just a nice athlete to have because she follows directions really well.”
Navarette said she was really excited about the next chapter in her life because of what the game of soccer gives her the opportunity to do.
“Obviously I had the greatest eight years of club soccer that I could have asked for. What I love most about soccer is playing for a team, so that is what I am most looking forward to,” she said. “The team is what is most important, and you need to be able to adapt to meet everyone’s needs.”
“It is a sad and happy moment all at the same time,” said Pantarotto. “It is sad because we spend a lot of time with these girls and we build them up and help them become better citizens, and when you see them go, there is a part of you that is gone. At the same time, I know that is life and they need to move on and continue down their life path, and I hope that we all prepared them here at McKinney High School.”
Throneberry has six goals and Navarette has one goal this season. The Lionettes face Frisco Wakeland on the road Friday night at 7:15 p.m. in the non-district finale.
The lone boys soccer player to sign on Wednesday was Stanton Garcia, who played academy soccer the previous two seasons instead of playing at McKinney High. Garcia signed his letter of intent with Southern Methodist University, calling the school and his future soccer goals “a perfect fit.”
“Whenever I went down there I thought the campus was really awesome,” said Garcia. “The first thing I thought about was the business school, which is what I want to get into. Plus the soccer team is really good.”
Garcia also looked at Louisville and Memphis, but said he didn’t want to be that far away from home.
“It wasn’t my main focus but it is definitely a positive,” he said.
“I think anybody to suit up for SMU soccer that was apart of MHS soccer is a huge accomplishment for our program,” said Lions soccer head coach Alan Pocock. “I know he is disappointed to not be able to balance academy and high school soccer, but it has been great to have his personality and charisma around the guys this year. He is helping out at our training sessions and our games, and that is a big positive for us.”
Pocock said that SMU was getting a player who could help out the team from day one.
“He certainly has a tremendous amount of energy,” said Pocock with a chuckle. “Very versatile player, and had he played for us the last two years he would have been a big part of our offense. I think he will clearly be working into their offense.”
With signing day come and past, Garcia said the experience was definitely a wild one.
“It was definitely a roller coaster experience. You never really know what is going to happen, but mostly it has been good. It is always nice to hear people want you to come to their school. It is a cool feeling.”
“Division I soccer is rough and tumble, but I think Stanton has the ability to be successful in the classroom and on the field,” said Pocock.
Angie Bado contributed to this report.