The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
There were no sudden hat switches, but the National Signing Day ceremony at Port Arthur Memorial’s auditorium on Wednesday did feature one big surprise. Quarterback Ricky Fisk signed with Morgan State, choosing the Bears over his verbal commitment to Lamar University.
Fisk, who was recruited to Lamar as a defensive back, said the Bears coaching staff offered him the opportunity to play quarterback this fall.
“Lamar is a good program, but they offered me to play DB,” Fisk said. “Morgan State offered to let me play quarterback for the next four years. They run the same offense I did in high school, so I feel really good about this. I feel really good about my teammates coming up there with me, too.”
Fisk, the Port Arthur News Super Team MVP, threw for 2,025 yards and 20 touchdowns in the regular season last year and rushed for another 897 yards and 12 touchdowns. He became the first Memorial quarterback to ever pass for 2,000 yards in the regular season and finished his Titan career as the third-leading passer in school history.
Fisk was not the only senior signing a letter of intent Wednesday, as he was joined by 10 more of his teammates and another who signed an academic scholarship.
Signing on Wednesday were defensive tackle Matthew Romar (Oklahoma), receiver Brandon Leday (Morgan State), cornerback Devin Cockrell (Texas-El Paso), safety Jalen Barnes (Texas Tech), safety/linebacker Darius Lemora (Washington State), receiver John Leday (Houston), quarterback Ricky Fisk (Morgan State), cornerback James Jenkins (Kilgore College), offensive lineman Brendan Vaughn (Missouri Valley), defensive tackle Walter Oliver (Morgan State) and linebacker Gregorie Johnson (Missouri Valley). Center Toan Nguyen signed an academic scholarship with the University of Houston.
Fisk will be joined at Morgan State by teammates Brandon Leday and Walter Oliver, along with former teammate Jereem Augustine, who played with the Bears last season.
Leday caught 25 passes for 360 yards and a touchdown last season. He is joined by two other area receivers in the Bears recruiting class, as Central’s Landen Malbrough and West Brook’s Ladarius Spearman also signed with Morgan State Wednesday. Oliver added 44 tackles and three sacks while anchoring the middle of the Titan defensive line.
The smiles that lit the stage Wednesday were a nice change from the bitter pill the Titan football team had to swallow after Manvel ended their season in the bidistrict round of the playoffs last season. Those 11 signees included every senior defensive starter from that loss to Manvel and five players signing with Division I colleges.
Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison noted on Wednesday that the Titans have had 27 senior starters combined in the past two season and 24 of them had the opportunity to play collegiately.
The Titans equaled the number of scholarship recipients from last season’s National Signing Day and had one more Division I signee than last year’s talented group.
The headliner of that group, and the most hotly recruited player in the area, may have been defensive tackle Matthew Romar, who chose Oklahoma over offers from a number of schools including Texas Christian and Cincinnati. His decision was helped by visiting with former Port Arthur Lincoln and Oklahoma great Joe Washington, who met Romar on his official visit to Norman and showed him around the campus.
“It was great,” Romar said. “I grew up hearing about (Joe), hearing about his playing style, but I never got a chance to meet him. That was a great expereince. He gave me his number, so I was really excited about that too.”
Romar had 48 tackles, including nine for a loss, with five sacks, one interception, one pass broken up and a forced fumble. Romar visited Oklahoma the weekend before
Throughout the Titans signings, there was a hint of Texas Tech. Safety Jalen Barnes was the most overt sign, as the 6-footer signed with the Red Raiders and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury after decommitting from Iowa State last month.
Barnes was Memorial’s third-leading tackler last season with 54 tackles, including two for a loss, with one interception and five pass breakups.
Former Tech head coach Mike Leach was also involved, as the new Washington State coach inked safety/linebacker hybrid Darius Lemora as well. Lemora played the “Bandit” position for Memorial last season.
He also wins the prize for longest trip to college, as Pullman, Washington is 2,350 miles away from Port Arthur. Lemora said it’ll take some getting used to, especially with the difference in weather from his home town to Washington state.
“Honestly, the distance was a factor, but it really wasn’t,” Lemora said. “Washington State’s conference, the Pac-12, is one of the best academic conferences in the nation. I’m all about the academics, getting my degree and being successful. Football will always be there, but it’s about the grades.”
Cornerback Devin Cockrell signed with Texas-El Paso after decommitting from Morgan State last month. Cockrell missed almost all of the 2011 season after injuring his knee against Beaumont Central, but a solid senior year ramped up recruiting interest in the big defensive back.
Receiver John Leday rounded out the Division I group by signing with the University of Houston. Leday had 49 catches for 587 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Right tackle Brendan Vaughn and linebacker Gregorie Johnson both signed with Missouri Valley College, an NAIA school in Marshall, Missouri. They become the 10th players from the Golden Triangle to sign with the Vikings and join former PN-G standout Kyler Nicotre and former West Brook quarterback Bruce Reyes.
Johnson missed the first game of the season after injuring his shoulder in a scrimmage against Atascocita, but played well enough to total 37 tackles last season with four sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.
Rounding out the group was James Jenkins, who signed with Kilgore College. Jenkins had 36 tackles with three interceptions and three pass breakups last season.