Miller County sent four star athletes to college

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

COLQUITT -- A celebration broke out Thursday morning, right there in the Miller County gym, where a parade of Pirates held their own party on what could be called Miller County's unofficial signing day.

It was just like that big day in February when high school football players around the country sign letters-of-intent, only at Miller County it was open season as two basketball players -- one who set the boys scoring record and one who was a savvy guard for the girls team -- and a pair of football partners all secured their college futures.

"It's a good day, a real, real good day,'' said Miller County boys basketball coach Tim Martin, whose son Will ended a brilliant career and is now off to Atlanta, where he will major in business and play for Atlanta Metropolitan Community College.

Will Martin not only averaged 17 points and six assists a game this season, but he became the first boys player at Miller County to score 1,000 points in his career, and leaves the school with a record 1,316 points.

"This was the best choice for me,'' Will Martin said. "I loved the school, and I love Atlanta. I have a lot of family there. It's like a second home to me.''

Katrina Crankfield, like Martin, was named to the first team All-Region 1-A basketball team as senior, and leaves after being the glue and leader of the Lady Pirates. Crankfield averaged 14 points, four rebounds and four assists a game.

She is planning on a career in nursing and signed with Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia, Ala.

"I liked the school, and I wanted to be somewhere that was not too far from home, but still close to home,'' she said. "It's about 2 hours away, so I can come home whenever I get a chance.''

Northwestern Oklahoma State University made the biggest haul, signing Miller County's top two football players -- a pair of friends who decided to make it a package deal.

Shawn'dre Sheffield, one of the most prolific Class A running backs in Southwest Georgia, is bolting for Alva, Okla., and he's taking defensive back Zenario Shuler with him to the NAIA school.

Sheffield gained 1,209 yards on only 162 carries this season (that's an amazing 7.46 yards a carry) and scored 13 touchdowns to end a memorable career in which he gained more than 4,000 yards as four-year starter.

He plans to make it five years in a row.

"I'm going to start as a freshman,'' Sheffield said. "We're both going to start.''

Sheffield and Shuler, who were both All Region 1-A players, are leaving together with the same kind of confidence.

"We wanted to go somewhere together,'' said Sheffield, who plans on majoring in sociology. "We've known each other since the eighth grade, and it will be good for both of us there. We can push each other.''

Shuler brings his own brand of football to the Rangers. He is a tough, quick defensive back who knows how to cover and tackle. He made 26 solo stops from the secondary, had nine assists this season, picked off two interceptions and recovered four fumbles.

He has been best friends with Sheffield since middle school, and simply didn't want to leave home without him.

"I didn't want to go out there by myself,'' said Shuler, who plans on a career in sports medicine. "We're close friends and this was the best deal for both of us.''

It was pretty good deal for Miller County's athletic program on Thursday as friends and family members and coaches gathered to celebrate. Unofficial or not, it was signing day for the Pirates.