The signing days may change, but the emotions remain the same for local seniors

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/10/20

PITTSBORO — On April 8, Deuce Powell planned on fishing. Not committing.

Thanks to some subtle arrangements by his family, the Northwood senior got to do both.

Powell, who played …

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The signing days may change, but the emotions remain the same for local seniors

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Posted

PITTSBORO — On April 8, Deuce Powell planned on fishing. Not committing.

Thanks to some subtle arrangements by his family, the Northwood senior got to do both.

Powell, who played football, basketball and baseball for the Chargers, left his Pittsboro home that afternoon to fish with teammate Aaron Ross at Jordan Lake. When he came home, he walked into a living room full of red, white and blue streamers and star-shaped balloons.

His family was there, too, all wearing T-shirts of the same colors. And his national letter of intent for Louisburg College, where he’d verbally committed to play basketball the week before, was sitting on the table with a pen next to it. He thought it was still in the mail.

“An interesting way of doing it,” Powell said with a laugh.

Such impromptu signing days have been a necessity since the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across Chatham County, the state and the country at large. The traditional route — signing in your high school gymnasium with rows upon rows of friends and teachers cheering you on — is an obvious no-go under current guidelines.

So creativity’s been at a premium.

Northwood’s athletic department honored senior athletes on its Twitter account, @ChargerAthletes, with names, photos, accolades and college destinations all meshed into a green and gold graphic. Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Charter took to social media, too; the latter even produced a video series to replace its usual end-of-year athletic banquet.

Olivia Hudson, a Chatham Central senior, verbally committed to play softball at Greensboro College early this year. She’d long envisioned her signing day, the friends who’d attend and the dozens of photos she’d take afterward to preserve the memory.

“That was probably the hardest part,” Hudson said. “I really wanted them to be there, but we couldn’t have that.”

Luckily, her school gave her a hand.

Chatham Central had recently hosted a virtual athletic banquet in its auditorium, and the stage was still decorated with red and white flowers and a table featuring the school logo. In mid-May, the Hudsons met athletic director Bob Pegram and principal Karla Eanes there for Olivia’s signing day — albeit at a (very) reduced capacity.

It was “bittersweet,” Hudson said, but still enjoyable. Since her freshman year, she’d been slowly building toward her end goal of playing college sports. Now, it was here.

Flanked by her parents, a bat, a glove and two old jerseys, she couldn’t help but smile as that dream became an official reality.

“I was just grinning ear to ear,” Hudson said. “I was so happy to have a school like that come and tell me they wanted me.”

On her way home, she also stopped at Zaxby’s to pick up a celebratory meal of chicken tenders, forever her favorite item on the menu.

Tyler Johnson, a Northwood pitcher, went a similar route. When he committed to Methodist University in early April, he shared the news on his Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat before digging into a dinner plate from Smithfield’s Chicken ’N Bar-B-Q.

“We couldn’t eat anywhere,” Johnson said, “so we just got takeout.”

For Powell, COVID-19 affected more than just his signing day.

His recruiting didn’t pick up until late February and early March, when the Northwood boys basketball team made it all the way to the NCHSAA 3A semifinals. (Three rounds earlier, a video of Powell hitting a game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer had also gone viral.)

By the first week of April, he had a few schools interested, but he’d made zero visits. So he hopped in the car with his parents, Dedric and Cherice, for a week’s worth of drive-by visits to schools across the state: Catawba Valley Community College, Guilford College, North Carolina A&T and, of course, Louisburg, a junior college.

Powell made his choice that Friday and signed at home within the week.

“I’d been looking forward to committing in the gym,” Powell said. “Ever since I was a freshman, that was the only thing I wanted to do. But I think the way my parents set it up was a very good substitute. They made me feel loved and like I accomplished something.”

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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