Byline: Stephen Kindland, Clay County Line sports writer
Four Clay High School athletes made history Wednesday morning in front of 1,000 students when they signed Division I football scholarships at four different colleges.
The four signees joined four other Clay County athletes who formally accepted football scholarship offers, along with softball players Alecia Black and Holly Garrard, who signed agreements to play for Pasco Community College.
Clay's Cliff Avril, Curtis Francis, Terrance Butler and Cy Wainwright sat at separate tables in the school gym with their parents, other family members and a teacher of their choice as Principal Pete McCabe announced "another historic day" at Clay High.
Multicolored balloons and personalized cakes helped make the occasion festive as Avril, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound defensive end for the 11-3 Blue Devils, took pen in hand and signed his scholarship offer from Purdue University.
The smile hadn't left Avril's face before Francis (running back, Central Florida), Butler (linebacker, Louisville) and Wainwright (offensive lineman, Bethune-Cookman, Division I-AA) followed suit, each bringing a round of applause from their classmates after making brief speeches.
Earlier the same morning, Orange Park quarterback Mike Chapman signed with Florida International University in Miami, and Middleburg tight end Gary Barnidge committed to Louisville.
Ridgeview teammates Josh Warrior (linebacker, Charleston Southern) and Tyler Thomas (strong safety, Jacksonville University) took part in ceremonies early Wednesday afternoon to complete one of the county's most prolific national signing days ever.
Clay held a similar ceremony last year when celebrated quarterback Charles Clark (Mississippi) and lineman Luke Lathan (North Carolina State) made school history when they became the first year two athletes in the same sport to sign with Division I schools.
At least two other county athletes likely will sign with Division I colleges as well.
Clay's Jake Glass, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound linebacker, is weighing the pros and cons between Air Force and Harvard; and Middleburg running back Trent Stewart, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards for the 8-3 Broncos, is still looking at several options.
Happy ending for Chapman
While most of Wednesday's signees had known for some time that college football was in their future, that wasn't the case for Orange Park's Chapman. …