With signing day on Wednesday, four local high school football players announced their college decisions Monday.
Lineman Justin Rhinesmith of Middle Township will attend Villanova University. Lineman Tim Goodwin of Holy Spirit and running back and defensive back Stephan Thomas of Egg Harbor Township are headed to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Absegami lineman Steve Schwartz is headed to Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y.
All four will receive scholarships. Villanova, Sacred Heart and Wagner are all members of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA.
Wednesday is signing day, the first day high school fall athletes are allowed to sign national letters of intent under NCAA regulations.
These are hectic days for high school football players who are fortunate enough to be recruited.
"I didn't feel any pressure," Goodwin said by telephone Monday. "I just feel relieved the whole recruiting process is over. It can be so time-consuming."
Rhinesmith is the latest Cape-Atlantic League standout to attend Villanova, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Matt Szczur of Lower Cape May Regional excelled for Villanova, leading the Wildcats to the FCS national title in 2009 and back to the national semifinals last season. Receivers Norman White (St. Joseph) and Kenny Miles (Buena Regional), quarterback Dustin Thomas (St. Augustine Prep), defensive lineman Antoine Lewis (Mainland Regional) and defensive back Craig James (Oakcrest) also play for Villanova. Defensive coordinator Mark Reardon is a Margate resident.
Holy Spirit defensive back Joe Sarnese also has committed to the Wildcats for next season.
"The campus is beautiful and the academics are outstanding," the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Rhinesmith said in a phone interview Monday. "The players from the CAL are doing really well there. It's basically a giant all-star team from the CAL."
Sacred Heart is another college with local connections. Tim Little, a 2009 EHT graduate, is a quarterback for the Pioneers, who play in the Northeast Conference and went 4-7 last season. They also feature linebackers John Binford (Southern Regional) and Steve Sibona (Southern Regional), and offensive lineman Joe Tulino (Lacey Township) and Dylan Larson (Southern Regional).
Goodwin helped lead Spirit to a 12-0 record and the state Non-Public III championship last fall. The 6-2, 272-pounder played fullback, tight end and defensive line. Sacred Heart is recruiting him as an H-back, which is a hybrid of the fullback and tight end.
"I like the camaraderie of the players, the school itself, the campus, everything," Goodwin said.
The 6-foot, 203-pound Thomas excelled on offense and defense last fall. He made 65 tackles and intercepted three passes. On offense, Thomas rushed for 591 yards, caught passes for 217 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Thomas could not be reached for a comment Monday night.
Schwartz decided to attend Wagner after visiting the school last weekend. The 6-4, 292-pounder was a three-year starter. Absegami ran behind him just about every time it needed a big play.
Wagner also plays in the Northeast Conference, going 5-6 last season. The Seahawks have running back Dominique Williams (Bridgeton).
"The school is very nice, and the (players) are pretty cool," Schwartz said in a phone interview Monday. "It seemed like a good fit."
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