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Southern Miss signee George Payne highlights St. Luke's first signing class
February 6, 2013St. Lukes Episcopal School
Southern Miss signee George Payne highlights St. Luke's first signing class (video)
By February 06, 2013 at 2:03 PMon February 06, 2013 at 1:48 PM, updated
MOBILE, Alabama -- The adjectives associated with St. Luke's early venture into high school football flow easily now.
"Awful," said quarterback Drew Favors, who transferred in as a sophomore.
"Rough," echoed teammate Kelan James, who has been a part of the Wildcats' program since its inception four years ago.
That's all a distant memory today.
St. Luke's went 9-3 in 2012, made the Class 1A playoffs for the first time and capped the year Wednesday when three of the Wildcats' seven seniors signed college scholarships.
This is just an amazing and emotional day," said St. Luke's John Beverly, who has been with the program since its inception but just finished his first year as head coach. "To see the program from its starting point until this day ... it's just amazing. It's a great day for St. Luke's.
"I think what it shows is that we have kids here who have great athletic ability and great intelligence who will work hard and can play at the next level. These guys have set the foundation for years to come."
Favors signed with Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D., on Wednesday. James, an offensive lineman, signed with Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss. Running back George Payne made good on his commitment from last month and signed with Southern Mississippi.
The Wildcats might not be done just yet. Athlete Aaron Bryant has received some interest in both football and basketball and could add to the signing class at a later date.
"It's a huge day for St. Luke's," athletic director Tim Becker said. "To see the work these guys have put in since their ninth-grade year and the way they have represented their school and community has been special. It's been great to see them rewarded with such a great year and now this. Just an awesome day at St. Luke's."
St. Luke's has been in existence for 51 years but only went through eighth grade until 2009. That's when the school decided to offer continued education through 12th grade.
"These guys were our first sophomore class," Becker said. "They've really been seniors for four years in that regard because they've always been the oldest."
St. Luke's first played a varsity schedule in 2010, going 2-6.
The Wildcats went 2-7 the next year before making the dramatic turnaround this fall.
It didn't look good early even this year. St. Luke's won just one of its first three games. However, the Wildcats beat John Essex in Game 4 to even their record, sparking an eight-game win streak.
"When we won that second game, I think that was huge," Favors said. "It equaled the number of games we had won each of the previous two years, and there was just a different feeling. That's kind of when it turned around."
One of the biggest reasons for the transition was Payne.
The Class 1A Back of the Year finalist ran for 2,424 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-State and All-Region pick.
He began picking up a lot of recruiting interest toward the end of the year and took official visits to both Southern Miss and UAB. He committed to USM in January.
On Wednesday, he said he was happy the recruiting process was over.
"It's kind of tiring, kind of stressful," Payne said. "I know where I'm going to college, and I'm looking forward to getting there."
Beverly is hoping this Signing Day continues to put his school on the map.
"I think a lot of people still didn't know much about St. Luke's in general," he said. "Now, I think they can say, 'Hey, St. Luke's has a great program that produces college signees.' It will definitely help us in the future as we continue to try and pave our way here in Mobile."