Six Platte County High School students from four different sports signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their athletic careers at the next level on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
In a ceremony held at the Wilson Center for Performing Art, soccer players Bailey Bologna and Kaylyn Hathaway, baseball player Max Hunter, football player Michael Smith and multi-sport athletes John Watts and Kobe Cummings made their pledges official.
The group will be going across the Midwest to play at the Division II or NAIA level.
At the end of the ceremony, athletic director Phil Dorman spoke to the signees and the crowd.
“I hope this place will hold a special place in your heart,” Dorman said. “You are always welcome to come back. You haven’t graduated yet, so you will have to come back tomorrow. What I said about sports teaching life lesson? Just remember sports is what you do, it is not who you are. There are a lot of things sports can help you in, but it doesn’t define you. All six are great Pirates and great individuals.”
A recap of each athlete follows in alphabetical order.
An all-district and all-conference pick for the soccer team, Bologna will play for Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo.
The senior looked at two schools in the St. Louis area before decided on the MIAA school. She tweeted her pledge on Sept. 24, 2017.
“I would say the school is really good as a whole and the soccer program seems to be improving a lot,” said the midfielder who is interesting in pursuing a pre-med major. “They got a new coach and I’m looking forward to that and the things he will do with the program.”
She will be playing for Dave Musso, who was hired in December to take over a program that went 5-12-1 last year. Musso comes from fellow D-II school Quincy, which went to the postseason 10 times under his watch.
The chance to play right away was a drawing factor for Bologna, who was a first-team All-Suburban Conference Blue Division pick her freshman and junior seasons. She added first-team all-district last year as the Pirates reached the district finals and finished 16-8-1.
Bologna, who played club soccer with Extreme 99/00G Blue, missed her sophomore season due to a knee injury.
Her mother, Heidi Lowen, joined her on stage, as well as Platte County soccer coach Ashlyn Brantley.
“She brings a strong midfield player and typically attacking midfield role,” Brantley said of Bologna. “She is a good leader and has plenty of athleticism and skill we need up there.”
The athletic ability of Cummings gave him plenty of options to play at the next level.
The chance to do what he wanted — to play baseball and football —wasn’t that easy but it worked out with him signing to play for Missouri Western.
“It is huge,” Cummings said of signing in both sports. “It doesn’t happen a lot. It is very unique situation. I’m excited to be in this position and I wanted to do both.”
Cummings had offers to play football at a higher level than Division II, but the chance to do both sports, was something that won out.
Western football coach Matt Williamson initially had interest in Cummings and after discussing options, baseball coach Buzz Verduzco entered the frame.
“They came together and made it work,” said Cummings, who bypassed FCS offers to play at Colgate and Columbia.
Cummings had 91 tackles and a team-high 13 tackles for loss for the Pirates, a Class 4 semifinalist this past fall.
Cummings had offers to play junior college baseball at nationally-ranked Crowder (Mo.) College and Cowley (Kan.) Community College.
He will play outfield for the Griffons on the diamond and will be a linebacker/safety on the gridiron and could possible play his freshman season for the football team.
“With all the specialization around it is refreshing to see kids do more than one sport,” Platte County football coach Bill Utz said. “We try to make it where you don’t have to specialize and it is nice to see them rewarded in more than one sport.”
Cummings, joined by his parents Michelle and CV Cummings on the stage, will likely major in business at the St. Joseph school.
Hathaway is the signee that is staying the closest to home when she inked with Park University.
She has played multiple positions for the Pirates, seeing time in goal and defender.
During the 2016 season, when the Pirates won a district title, she saw some starting time as goalkeeper. She was the starter when Platte County beat Smithville to snap a losing streak against the Warriors that spanned six years.
"To get the opportunity to play college ball is unbelievable," Hathaway said. "Basically I had a mind set that if I didn't get a scholarship for soccer I would stop playing the sport I absolutely love and focus on school and work, but being given the opportunity to continue playing is amazing and breath taking. With playing soccer close to home will be good thing, because if or when i'm stressed out it's always great to see my family on the sidelines cheering me on. My mom is my stress reliever so depending on my facial expressions I give her, she'll respond back in a way of support and calming. "
Hathaway played club soccer for Bellagio 99/00G.
She will join a Park squad that went 12-4-2 last year and features varsity and development squads.
“Kaylyn has been playing different roles,” Brantley said. “She is really a team player. Depending on where we need her and where she felt comfortable. She is a very versatile player.”
Hathaway, who would like to major in nursing, had originally thought of attending Drury or Michigan State before the Park offer came along following a tournament in December.
When Hunter decided he would be play for Pittsburg State, he did so while wearing a sling following a shoulder injury.
Hunter signed with the Division II Gorillas in the early signing period — he announced his pledge on Oct. 24, 2017 — but joined the others in the ceremony.
The Pirates third baseman will likely redshirt his first season at the Pittsburg, Kan. school as he rehabs a torn labrum sustained this fall while diving back into first base during a game in St. Louis.
He underwent surgery to repair the damage and will be limited this spring, restricted to only hitting when the Pirates start playing ball.
Hunter had offers from a handful of Division II schools and junior colleges but was drawn to Pitt State.
“I like the facilities there, they were incredible,” said the Suburban Conference Blue Division all-conference pick. “I love the coaching staff and I know some of the kids that played there and they all had great things to say about it. All around, it is a good fit for me.”
Hunter, a 6-foot-1, 210 pound right-handed hitter, joins a Gorilla squad that was picked sixth in the preseason MIAA baseball coaches poll. Between the Kansas City metro area on both sides of the border, Pitt State has 15 players from the region.
Hunter plays for Mac-n-Seitz 17U team and Jerry Hobbs that traveled across the country playing games in showcase series.
Hunter was joined on the stage for the signing by his parents, Kendra and Scott Hunter.
One of the most decorated football players this year for the Pirates will play for Division II Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
The Blue Tigers recruited the Kansas City metro area heavily —assistant coach Phil Pitts recently coached at St. Joseph Central — and landed the Bobby Bell Award winner, given to the top small-school lineman/linebacker in the region.
Smith was an all-everything pick for the Pirates for his play on the defensive line this past fall. He was first-team all state by both the Missouri Media and Missouri Football Coaches Association. He was also named all-district and all-conference, while picking up the Suburban Conference Blue Division defensive player of the year honors.
“Lincoln is getting a great defensive player,” Utz said. “The only thing he can’t control is his height. Everybody was saying if he was a little bigger, he was just too short. Lincoln extended the olive branch and he liked it and they were able to put together a nice package for him. I think he will have a very good career there. He will be one of their better players right out of the gate.”
Smith said his options were narrowed down to Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo., or Lincoln — both members of the Great Lakes Valley Conference for football.
He also had interest from Washburn, Missouri Western and Missouri Valley.
The Blue Tigers envision Smith as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end and he is expected to play this fall. He posted a school-record 17½ sacks as a defensive end this fall, while adding 62 tackles — 11 for loss – while adding a pair of forced fumbles.
Smith had at least one sack in 12 of Platte County’s 14 games and provided 20 quarterback hurries.
“I think it will be a good fit for me actually,” said Smith, who will major in graphic design. “Lincoln drew me in and how they made me feel.”
Smith admitted he was surprised he didn’t draw more interest from other schools.
“I’ll make up for it in college,” he said. “I wish I was a little bit taller … I’d be able to anywhere. I should be able to go anywhere now. I feel like I could play anywhere. People don’t think that, but I know I can.”
Joining him on the stage was his parents Michael and Vivian Smith.
In November, Watts and his teammates headed south to play Webb City in the Class 4 semifinal game just outside of Joplin.
Now, Watts will call that area of Missouri his home for the next few years after signing with Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo.
Watts signed a letter of intent to play football as well as compete for the track and field team for the Lions, a Division II team in the MIAA.
His first draw though was football, the chance to join a rebuilding project engineered by Denver Johnson, the former Tulsa offensive coordinator.
Watts visited MSSU on Jan. 20 and four days later tweeted his intentions to join the Lions and their pass-happy offense.
“The coaches, I really liked them,” Watts said of a draw to sign. “I like the facility there, they are really nice. The strength coach was really cool and all players were like a family.”
The 6-foot-4 receiver will have a chance to play as a true freshman, another major selling point.
Watts was second on the Pirates in catches (63), receiving yards (1,003) and touchdowns (9) this past season.
Watts, who wants to major in sports management, looked at variety of other schools in the MIAA as well as walk-on opportunities at Division I schools.
“I told them all you’ll know and he came back and said this is where I’m going,” Utz said. “Holy cow it was quick. He said he liked it and everything was good. He has a great opportunity ahead of him and I think it is a good place.”
Watts was joined on the stage by his mother, Flora Watts, and his sister, Raven Watts.