GODFREY — National Signing Day swept through Alton and Godfrey on Wednesday.
At Alton High School a trio of football players were celebrated, as Josh Lovings signed a letter of intent to play at McKendree University, Larry Calvin inked a deal at Olivet Nazarene and Zach Edwards will be a preferred walk on at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Marquette Catholic got in the mix too, with girls' soccer standout Kate Sanfilippo signing with Northern Illinois.
It wasn't quite the buzz in the area that East St. Louis received with stud recruit Terry Beckner Jr. signing with the University of Missouri. Beckner, a defensive lineman, was one of the top recruits in the country and his press conference was broadcast live on ESPN.
It was a big day for the Redbirds and athletics director Jeff Alderman, who stepped down as Alton's football coach following the 2014 season, was happy to see his three players continue on in college.
Lovings, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound defensive back, has plenty of potential. Lovings played strong safety, wide receiver and worked as a return man for AHS.
He registered 31 solo tackles and 33 tackles altogether in '14, accompanying a pair of interceptions. On offense he hauled in 14 catches for 226 yards and a score, while running in a 10-yard touchdown, too.
His highlight play was a game-saving tackle in a 17-14 win over Belleville East late in the contest. He was an All-Conference selection and a big reason the 5-4 Birds nearly made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“Josh was a great member of our program for three years,” Alderman said. “He started and played significantly as a sophomore. He's a very intense young man, very intelligent young man in terms of football. He's a very solid hitter and a great run supporter for us as a strong safety. He did a tremendous job and has great athletic ability.”
Lovings thought the Bearcats were a good fit for him. He had also talked with Truman State, Central Missouri and Indiana State during the recruiting process.
“When I went to visit it was a great family atmosphere,” Lovings said. “I got along with the coaches well and they just made me feel at home. I'm very excited to get there.”
He plans to play safety there and possibly some corner and special teams if needed. His goal is to bulk up to improve his skill set.
“Anything I need to do to help the team I'm willing to do,” he said. “I know I need to hit the weight room. I've always done that, but I just know I need to put on some more weight and just study and try and make my game better.”
Calvin, a 5-8, 150-pound speedster for the Redbirds is stoked to go to the Tigers of Olivet Nazarene, a NAIA school in Bourbannais.
“This is a very exciting time in my life,” Calvin said. “Just a few months ago at the start of the season I didn't know where I would be playing college football. I didn't even know if I was going to be getting any playing time. It's just a joy my senior year to come in and get a scholarship and be able to go and play college football. It's an honor.”
Calvin was the second leading rusher for Alton with 44 carries for 296 yards and six TDs. On defense he was a stellar corner for the Birds, with 24 solo tackles, 26 total tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. He was a second-team All-Conference selection.
“Larry had a very solid year for us at corner,” Alderman said. “He really worked hard. He's very deceptive with his quickness, his first step, second step and we always gave him the toughest wide out assignment as a corner and he did a good job.
“On offense he had a nose for the endzone and broke some big plays and was a good depth player for us. Larry, we didn't really use him a whole lot, but he could be a return guy, too.”
As for Edwards, a 6-2, 310-pound All-Conference offensive lineman, his academics have spurred him to success as much as his athletics. A member of the National Honors Society, Edwards will be a preferred walk on with the Salukis meaning he won't have to attend any tryouts. He will go straight to pre-season camps at Carbondale.
“I get everything that a scholarship athlete would get, except the financial part of it,” Edwards said. “I'll be on the team and everything else is the same. I'm just not getting a scholarship.”
SIUC was his first choice and really his only choice. He never really had any other offers, but once he got the preferred walk on deal he didn't even look anywhere else.
He'd like to be a center for the Salukis and with his size Alderman thinks he could ultimately be a nice addition to the program.
“A lot of times at the FCS level the better kids are the ones that didn't get that scholarship coming out of high school,” Alderman said. “Zach's blessed with great size. He's very strong and he's not afraid to work to make himself stronger. I'll be excited to see how Zach does.
“He's a great student and SIUC was appealing to him because he's interesting in agricultural engineering. They were very honest with Zach about his opportunities.”
If Edwards does well it could eventually materialize into a scholarship.
While the three gridders were inking deals at AHS, across town Sanfilippo was getting her deal out of the way before her senior season at Marquette.
A star midfielder for the Explorers a year ago, she was second on the team with 33 points. She had nine goals and 15 assists.
NIU is a member of the MAC (Mid-American Conference) and was 6-11-4 in 2014.
All of the players will have to say goodbye to their prep careers though as they make these moves. Lovings said he'll definitely miss his time donning a Redbird uniform.
“I'll miss all the fans and just playing for my hometown and just the atmosphere of playing at West,” Lovings said. “I wish I had another year here because we've started building something great and for it to be over is kind of bittersweet. I'm really proud of (building the program) and I think the guys that are still here will continue that tradition, so I'll just be ready to watch that.”