Schools give Devils their due

LINCOLNTON, Ga. - Lincoln County's tradition is well known in Georgia high school football circles - 28 state semifinal appearances and 14 state championships since 1960, including the previous two at the Class A level.

But mostly because of its small size, the school rarely has turned out large National Signing Day contingents.

This year's crop of Red Devils was an exception.

Lincoln County translated its recent run of Friday-night success into one of its largest groups to sign national letters of intent Wednesday. Three players inked with Division I programs, and more than a handful of others signed with smaller schools or junior colleges.

"In my 27 years here, this is the largest amount of kids we've had to sign scholarships, and we're really happy about that," assistant head coach Howard Ellis said. "We just knew this would be a special class, even from their middle school days. And these guys signing today, they proved us right."

Brandon Barden already is enrolled at Virginia Tech, where he will play receiver, and Darell Norman signed with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he'll play running back.

Also, defensive lineman Jarius Wynn, a 2005 Lincoln graduate, joined Georgia's incoming class in Athens, having spent the past two years at Georgia Military College.

Defensive back Rontae Norman, The Augusta Chronicle's All-Area Player of the Year, and running back Ricardo "Butch" Norman each signed with GMC.

Defensive back Donnell Wynn and tight end Jatheus Jones (pending qualification) signed with Tuskegee, while linebacker Kiece Crite and running back D.J. Jones also will sign with smaller schools when final decisions are made.

Crite, who underwent an appendectomy during the season, has yet to decide between West Georgia, Tuskegee and Valdosta State. Jones is deciding between Cumberland College and Valdosta State.

"We made history today. I think this is the most Lincoln County's ever had to sign," Donnell Wynn said. "It shows how bad we wanted it and what we had to go through to get it."

"We're pretty excited about it. We had a really good class that came out this year," said Darell Norman, who expects to compete for a starting position for UAB as a true freshman. "We had good athletes with good attitudes, and we had key leaders on and off the field."

One key reason for Lincoln County's larger-than-usual signing class lies in its sheer volume. The team had one of its biggest senior classes in numbers, but more notably, in contribution.

"In the past, we've had as large a senior class, but not as many kids contributed as did this year," Ellis said. "We had 15 seniors, and out of those, all either started or heavily contributed."

Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell was out of town Wednesday.

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.

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