South Aiken High School sent another handful of student-athletes to the collegiate level Tuesday in a signing ceremony held at the school.
Matthew DeFillips (Erskine baseball), Dominick Hodge (Erskine football), Donavan Hodge (Coker basketball), Tylaha Williams (North Country Community College basketball) and Ethan Youmans (Wofford football) were honored for their commitments to continue their academic and athletic careers.
Youmans is the latest T-Bred to sign to play Division I football. A Class AAAA All-State selection at kicker, Youmans has handled kicking duties as a three-year starter for the T-Breds.
"It's just an honor of a lifetime to go to a place where I can pursue academics and play highly competitive football," he said. "It's exciting. It hasn't hit me yet."
At Wofford he wants to study biology and chemistry and see what he wants to do academically from there.
He praised the T-Breds' coaches and leadership within the team, adding that there were no individuals within the program.
Dominick Hodge was a late addition to the football team, finally coming over from the basketball court a couple of years ago after teammates and coaches urged him to try out for the team.
"Really, just my friends always asking me to come out," he said. "The coaches never really gave up on wanting me to play. This past year with COVID and everything, it really slowed down recruiting with basketball so I just gave football a shot. I'm glad I went out."
It didn't take him long to find his niche, becoming one of the area's top defensive backs. At Erskine he'll play cornerback and looks forward to plenty of man-to-man coverage. He said Erskine, where he wants to study business administration, offered the best combination of playing time, scholarship money and academics.
Donavan Hodge found a similar fit at Coker. A Class AAAA All-State selection, he said it was a wonderful feeling to achieve a longtime dream of signing to play college basketball.
One of the most dynamic guards in the state, he frequently drew the opposing team's top defender while also playing at full-speed defensively to keep his assignment in check. Earning those big-time assignments is something he said will prepare him for the next level because of how it helped him develop as a player and shut out everything beyond what was in front of him on the court.
At Coker, where he wants to study sociology, he found a home away from home.
"Everything there – the classrooms, the students were welcoming, the coach," he said. "Everything just felt like home. I really enjoyed it."
Williams, on the other hand, is going far away from home to play basketball in New York for a program coming off back-to-back junior college region championships.
"It's very exciting. I'm ready for the experience," said Williams, who showed plenty of toughness at South Aiken during countless physical battles in the paint. "I'm just trying to wait until how I react to it, because I'm going to be in a very different environment. I'm going to be in the cold. It's different from South Carolina."
She acknowledged that the cold and some homesickness could be difficult to adjust to, but she also said she feels well prepared by her time at South Aiken to adapt to whatever new situations she'll face. She plans to study psychology.
T-Breds head coach Zack Green praised her perseverance and hard work and said those are big reasons why she has the opportunity to make this step to the next level.
DeFillips showed similar characteristics on the mound for the T-Breds' baseball program, and he said he's thankful for the opportunity to play in college after the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into recruiting.
He spoke highly of the academics at Erskine, where he wants to study either biochemistry or follow a pre-med path.
A tough competitor on the mound, he said his best strength is most likely his ability to locate his pitches – and he's able to throw multiple pitches effectively to keep hitters off balance.
"This program has helped me with getting better, pitching-wise and everything, especially in the weight room," he said. "Even after COVID, I was still working out and was able to keep doing my best and eventually here I am."