Pirates sign scholarships
INDIAN TRAIL — Signing Day has become an event on a lot of high school campuses, and Porter Ridge High had plenty to celebrate Wednesday morning.
The Pirates had four football players sign a national letter-of-intent in front of family, friends, coaches and teammates.
It was the most of any school in Union County, and a record number for the eighth-year school.
All-American kicker Matt Wogan signed with Oregon, all-state running back Chris Duffy became a Charlotte 49er, linebacker Avery Worsham inked with Western Carolina and defensive tackle Ryan Dilworth joined the Wingate Bulldogs.
“I’m excited to see these young men take the next step,” said Porter Ridge coach Blair Hardin. “The next four years will impact the next 40, It gives them a chance to get a quality education and continue to play a sport they love, I’m so happy for them and happy to be a part of it.”
Emotions filled the air.
Proud parents of the signees took their turn with the microphone and, often through tears, thanked coaches, boosters and teammates for the role they played in helping their sons earn a scholarship.
“Today is an unbelievable day,” Wogan said. “It’s the greatest feeling, it really is.”
Hardin says Signing Day impacts the younger athletes.
“It’s great for our program,” Hardin said. “We’ve got JV kids here seeing that the most important thing is academics. We’re trying to build and grow each year, and this is our biggest class signing class. We want to continue that commitment to excellence on and of the field.”
Duffy, a two-time all-state selection, helped the Pirates go 27-3 over the last two years with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
“This is a very special day, not only for me, but for my family, my coaches and my teammates,” said Duffy, who was voted county MVP by The Enquirer-Journal for 2012. “It’s a dream come true.”
Duffy likes the idea of playing right down the road.
“I didn’t want to go too far from my Mom and brother, they need me,” Duffy said. “If you get on 485 and book it you can get there in about 20 minutes. I can run home for dinner, catch a nap and get back real fast.”
Worsham and Dilworth have been three-year standouts on the best defense in Union County. The Pirates have given up an average of 12.3 points over those three years, easily the lowest in UC.
“It went by so fast, so this is a bittersweet moment,” said Worsham, a high school end who will convert to strongside linebacker at Western Carolina. “We played as hard as we could and we had fun.”
Dilworth fought tears when he thanked the Pirates’ football community right before he signed. “I’ve dreamed of playing college football all my life,” he said. “We’re going to be freshmen again, and that’s going to be tough, but I’m willing to make that journey.”
Wogan said his mind raced as he tried to sleep Tuesday night. He was counting down the hours in his head.
“I knew it was going to happen, I just couldn’t wait for it to happen,” Wogan said. “I was thinking about the things my coaches have done for me, and about everything my family has been through.”
Wogan played with a distraction as a senior.
“The day before our first game my dad (Ron) was diagnosed with leukemia,” Wogan said. “I never thought our family would get through it. Two weeks and two days ago we found out he’s in full remission, so I’ve had two dreams come true in two weeks.”
Wogan was named first-team all-American by USA Today and Parade Magazine, but doesn’t put a lot of stock in being considered the best high school kicker in the nation.
“It feels good, it’s a great honor,” Wogan said. “But at the same time, it’s a ranking and rankings really don’t matter. I think it’s about consistency on the field. I’m not going to worry about rankings or accolades. It’s what you can do on game day.”
While Wogan will be kicking thousands of miles away, most of Hardin’s college players are remaining in the state.
Charlotte is entering its first year of college football with five Porter Ridge graduates on the roster.
In addition to Duffy, QB Lee McNeill, offensive lineman Thomas La Bianca, kicker Stephen Muscarello and running back Damarrell Alexander are former Pirates who now call themselves 49ers.
“When you drop your head, it’s nice to have guys you went to high school with that are already there that can tell you you’re a good football player and to keep your head up,” Duffy said. “I think having those guys there already will make it more comfortable for me.”
Hardin plans to spend a lot of Saturdays watching his former players in college.
“After Saturday film I’ll be headed to UNCC a lot, or to Wingate to see Ryan,” Hardin said. “Avery’s not too far away and I’ll be able to watch Matt on TV. I’m looking forward to seeing what these guys do at the college level.”
While Hardin looks forward to their college performances, they reflect back on the impact he’s had on their lives.
“Coach Hardin is the greatest coach ever, I believe,” Dilworth said. “He really turned this program around and he’s made us into the young men we are today.”
Worsham, a two-year captain, became an inspirational leader for the Pirates. In addition to his relentless pursuit of quarterbacks, Worsham was a chatter box — always trying to keep spirits high.
“Everybody talked, I was just the loudest,” Worsham said with a smile. “We had the best chemistry. Celebrating after those wins, that was the best part. I don’t look back at losing the state championship games. I look back at all the positives. I feel like we helped build something special here. I think we kept the tradition alive.”
Duffy said he grew a lot from his high school experience, which included two varsity seasons at Sun Valley.
“My high school career was fabulous,” Duffy said. “I had a lot of fun, a lot of great experiences. We played for two state championships. That’s pretty good.”
Wogan will be the furthest from home, but his Mom clings to the idea that “he’s just a plane ride away.”
“I’m following God close, closer than I ever have,” Wogan said. “I’m going away from my family and I’m going to need His help.”
Wednesday's Union County
Athletic Scholarship Signees
(as reported to The E-J)
Cuthbertson: Zach Panek (Wingate, football); Matt McGinnis (Valparaiso, football); Luke Fussy (Malone University, football); Ryan Torsza (Delaware, football); Madison Simmons (App. State, track/cross-country; Phenix Durham (Lees-McRae, soccer)
Forest Hills: Roderick Poag (Western Carolina, football)
Marvin Ridge: Kendon Corbett (Wingate, track/cross-country); Madison Martin (Air Force, women's soccer)
Monroe: Quay Chambers (Duke), football); Jermany Hammond (Johnson C. Smith, football); LaVonte Baker (Elizabeth City State, football)
Porter Ridge: Ryan Dilworth (Wingate, football); Chris Duffy (Charlotte, football); Matt Wogan (Oregon, football); Avery Worsham (Western Carolina, football)
Sun Valley: Kevin Saxton (App. State, football); Jacob Cannell (Western Carolina, football)
Union Academy: Rasheed Rushing (Elizabeth City State, football)
Weddington: Matthew Burns (App. State, track); Mallary Price (App. State, track)