The state of soccer in the Augusta area took a dramatic header forward Thursday morning at Richmond Academy.
Last year, the Musketeers carried a tagline around their necks as the top-ranked team in the entire country.
This year's feat might be just as impressive. Richmond Academy announced the signing of its top four seniors this season to Division I offers.
They'll be the team from Augusta with four elite college bound-players, an easy record for any prep team that competed in the Augusta area.
"Ok fellas," senior midfielder Parker Rogers said. "One, two and three, let's all sign."
And just like that the Musketeers' pens were off. Rogers is heading to Clemson on a partial academic and athletic scholarship. Midfielder Cline Beam will attend Wake Forest on an athletic grant.
Then there were the two Ivy League boys. Best friends Will Batson and Markus Jackson are off to Colgate and Yale, respectively.
"OK so we've got two warm-weather guys and two cold-weather guys," Richmond Academy coach Chris Hughes said.
Jackson's future is impressive because his offer, like Batson's, came purely on his academic talents.
"This honor is not as much as through my hard work but as all the people around me," Jackson said. "There were a lot of people who gave up a lot, sacrificed a lot to see me where I am today. I had to put forth an effort to pay the people like Jack Batson in my life back.
"They went so much out of their way to help me, the least I could do was make sure their efforts got me somewhere. It would be a slap in the face to all the people who helped me reach this if I didn't try my best to get this."
Hughes seemed happier than his players.
He seemed as happy as when his Muskeeters kept their perfect season intact with a 1-1 tie against Grayson that secured a share of the Class AAA state soccer championship.
"Look at the guys in these four chairs," Hughes told a crowd gathered in the school library. "These are four guys who are not just great soccer players but all great students. Where they are at now is a testament to their work ethic and what they wanted out of life. These are four great guys. They deserve this."
Beam put the day in perspective with his thoughts on just what Hughes meant by sacrifice.
"I was signing that paper today and I thought about all the times I took a trip up to Atlanta on the weekends for club practices and club tournaments," Beam said. "Sure I wanted to hang out with my friends, but look how this all paid off.
"That's the sort of sacrifice you have to make if you want to have a day like today. I didn't cheat myself or my talent, and look where it landed me today."
The Musketeers begin the defense of their state title on Feb. 22 at home against Jefferson County.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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