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Sports Extra: County football players sign

Anderson U, Lamb net 4 county players

Mr. Football finalist James chooses Trojans with teammates Aiken, Kinard

Copelands: Justin to North Greenville; Jishun joins Newberry’s ‘Pack

Clinton head coach Corey Fountain introduces his five college football signees during Signing Day Ceremonies Wednesday. From left, OL Dre Aiken, WR Jishun Copeland, ATH Justin Copeland, RB Bryson James and DE Hezekiah Kinard.

Clinton’s Justin Copeland spent part of Tuesday night running over in his mind everything he wanted to say on National Signing Day – all the people he wanted to thank for helping him realize his dream of becoming a college football player.

On Wednesday afternoon, he forgot all of it.

“I saw everybody, and my mind just went blank,” Copeland said after signing with North Greenville as four of his Red Devil teammates also signed with Upstate NCAA Division II programs.

South Carolina Mr. Football finalist Bryson James will join two of his teammates – offensive lineman Dre Aiken and defensive end Hezekiah Kinard – at Anderson University, which will play its inaugural football season in 2024 under head coach Bobby Lamb.

Jishun Copeland, a dynamic playmaker as a runner and receiver at Clinton, signed with Newberry where he is expected to be a slot receiver for the Wolves.

Those five players, who helped Clinton to the Upper State Championship game and a 25-2 record over the past two seasons, were joined on NCAA National Signing Day by three players from Laurens District High School who signed their National Letters of Intent.

Raiders quarterback James Rawl will join three of his former intra-county rivals at Anderson, linebacker Jordan Roberts is headed to Newberry where he will join Jishun Copeland, and Cayson Elledge is headed to Davidson where he will play non-scholarship Division I football in the Pioneer Football League for the Wildcats.

LDHS will host a signing ceremony for its players on Feb. 22.

From left, Clinton OL Dre Aiken, WR Jishun Copeland, ATH Justin Copeland, RB Bryson James and DE Hezekiah Kinard.

At Clinton, James, who led the Red Devils in rushing, yards from scrimmage and scoring as a senior and was the Region 4-3A Player of the Year, was the only player who had not announced his intentions prior to Tuesday.

He arrived wearing a black Anderson t-shirt and said he wanted to spend what will be a red-shirt season getting stronger and faster before suiting up for the Trojans in 2024.

James said Aiken and Kinard did a lot of recruiting work for Lamb and the Trojans after they made their verbal commitments.

“It was every single day and every monring, every night,” James said. “Every time I saw them. It was all the time.”

James chose Anderson over Presbyterian and other Division II and juco offers, but decided not to wait around for another potential Division I offer some observers thought he deserved.

“I thought about it,” he said. “But if I show out in D-II, it’s going to be the same thing as going D-I.”

Kinard said he wanted to keep “The Trio” together – more if it was possible.

“I’ve been trying to Bryson down. I’ve been trying to get Dre down – everybody,” Kinard said. “I was just like, ‘I’m going to Anderson, so everybody just come with me.’ We’re just going to have fun. All of us are going to play together again.”

Like James, Kinard and Aiken said they want to spend 2023 working to get stronger for the college game before starting anew in 2024.

“(Anderson) was the best option for me,” Aiken said. “When we started (with Coach Corey Fountain), ,we had to build the program from the ground up, and it’s kind of going to be the same thing over there. We just want to start out good, start out strong.”

Justin Copeland found the right words after the signing ceremony.

“This is the moment I dreamed of,” he said. “They have a great facility. When I went there, I wanted to see if the school looked good and if the football team was good, so I did a lot of research.”

The Baptist-supported university also appealed to Copeland’s faith.

“That’s my main thing,” he said.

Jishun Copeland visited Newberry this past week and came away impressed with both the school and the athletic facilities a short drive down Highway 76 from Clinton.

While three of his Red Devil teammates are starting a new program at Anderson,

Jishun Copeland said he liked Newberry’s long football tradition, which began in 1913.

“Being here in Clinton my three years on varsity, we’ve been winning, and I want to continue that,” he said. “I want to go there, and work hard. I think I can be more helpful to them than I was here.”

Raiders sign

Anderson signee Rawl started at quarterback at LDHS for three seasons, but his senior campaign ended early due to a knee injury in an overtime loss to Chapman.

Rawl, who committed to the Trojans in the fall, threw 59 touchdown passes in 19 starts.

Roberts, who turned in a stellar senior season at linebacker and running back for LDHS, chose nearby Newberry over several other offers.

“Thank you to all the coaches who recruited me and believed in me,” Roberts Tweeted. “After a good talk with my parents, I am very blessed to announce that I am committing to Newberry College.”

Elledge, who was a favorite target of Rawl’s during his LDHS career, also committed to Davidson in the fall.

The speedy receiver was also named to the annual Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl (North-South All-Star Game) along with James and Kinard.
Other players from Clinton and LDHS are also expected to consider scholarship offers in the coming weeks.

LDHS wide receiver Jay Pulley has received offers from Newberry, Bluffton (Ohio) University and Presbyterian, and Raiders defensive back Sion Hunter announced an offer from Minnesota West Community & Technical College.

Raiders linebacker Gemire Darden, who also received an offer from Minnesota West, could also sign on or before Feb. 22 as could Clinton offensive lineman Jay Martin, who is expected to take an official visit to Erskine this weekend.

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