Five will play on

Published 4:18 pm Monday, June 20, 2011

GATESVILLE – Five Gates County High School football players are planning to continue their careers on the gridiron.

Zachary Badgett, Avante Cross, Graham Hobbs, Jeremy Smith and Beau Williams intend to keep playing football now that they have finished their prep playing careers for the Red Barons.

“They were a great group to coach – all hard-workers,” GCHS Head Football Coach Matt Biggy said. “They are a great group of leaders

“They were part of the initial group when I came in and they have been a huge part of taking the program from a one-win team to an 11-win team,” he added. “They are an exceptional group.”

Zachary Badgett

Badgett is heading to Ohio, where he will walk on at Defiance College.

“The reason I want to go to Defiance College is that I have the chance to play college football and further my education,” he said.

Badgett was the jack of all trades for Gates County High School, playing linebacker, wide receiver, punter and kicker in his career. His excellence led to his selection as All-Tar-Roanoke Conference and All-Roanoke-Chowan in his senior season.

“He is a hard-working, dependable and tough young man,” Biggy said. “He has done anything we have asked. Defiance is a Division III school and I think he will fit in well. He’s going to help and contribute there.”

Badgett said he has learned a lot at Gates County.

“The thing I learned that will help me most would have to be: never give up when you are down or behind in a game,” he said. “This year, I don’t know the exact stats, but we had several come-from-behind victories.”

Badgett’s favorite victory during last year’s excellent season for the Red Barons came in their win over Edenton, a team that had beaten Gates County three times by a combined four points until GCHS exploded for a 23-15 win in 2010.

Avante Cross

Avante Cross is heading to North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount as an invited walk-on.

The two-time All-Roanoke-Chowan and All-Tar-Roanoke Conference player said he is excited about the opportunity he has there.

“I like how the program is set up,” he said. “I think they can push my game to the next level and the coaches seem like people that can really help.”

Biggy said Cross’s stature is the only reason he isn’t playing at a higher level.

“He’s an explosive defensive lineman,” the coach said. “He played every snap of every game for two years and gave people fits. He’s a player they are going to like at NC Wesleyan. If he were taller, he’s a Division IAA talent.”

Cross said he had learned how to play hard at Gates County and that he knew how to go hard on every play.

During his high school career, he played guard, defensive tackle, nose tackle and linebacker and will be a defensive end in college.

Looking back at Gates County High, Cross said his proudest moment came in beating North Edgecombe for the Tar-Roanoke Conference championship.

Graham Hobbs

One of the most underrated players in the region, Graham Hobbs was a key part of Gates County’s 11-win season at the quarterback position.

In the coming year, he will be walking on at North Carolina State University after turning down multiple offers to play at other places.

“I felt like it was the best fit for me,” he said. “Their program is on the rise, not only in the ACC, but on a national level. Plus, I have always been a fan of the Wolfpack.”

And while moving from a small 1-A school to a major Division I school may be difficult, Biggy said he would never underestimate what Hobbs could accomplish.

“He’s a very hard-working kid and an incredible leader,” the coach said. “I learned early on not to tell him what he can’t do because he will make you eat those words.

“North Carolina State is a different level of competition for sure, but I won’t tell him he can’t do it,” Biggy added. “He’s a really unique player to coach because he does so many things on his own. He gets the kids out working without being told to.”

Hobbs gave credit to his time at Gates County for teaching him to work hard.

“The work we put forth to go from a one-win football team to an 11-win football team taught me work ethic,” he said. “That came from hard work, dedication to the program and faith.”

Hobbs also remembered the game with North Edgecombe as his favorite because he ran for one score and threw for two more.

In his career, Hobbs was a three-year starter on varsity including 36 consecutive starts at quarterback. He was selected All-Roanoke-Chowan twice and All-Tar-Roanoke Conference twice.

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith is a player that got better and better during his years at Gates County High School. His work ethic and abilities will be taken to Chowan University this fall.

“I chose Chowan because it felt more like home when I visited,” Smith said. “It was like family and I have a chance to get a good education in a great environment. It just felt right.”

Biggy said the local university was getting a good player.

“He’s a kid who has moved up every year,” the coach said. “He played cornerback as a freshman, then put on some weight to play more as a sophomore. As a junior, he moved to safety and became a play maker.

“During his senior year, he had a great year and was the conference Player of the Year,” he added. “He has a chance to make a great impact at Chowan.”

As he prepares for Chowan, Smith said he learned a lot at Gates County High that will help him.

“I have learned that hard work pays off and we proved that over the years as our record went from 1-10 to 2-9 to 6-6 and then to 11-2 with a conference championship,” he said.

Smith also pointed out the conference championship-clinching game with North Edgecombe as his highlight. In that game, he had eight tackles, four receptions and a touchdown.

Beau Williams

Beau Williams will also be heading to Chowan University where he will be given a spot as a preferred walk-on.

“I chose Chowan because I have grown up around it and like the area,” he said. “I preferred a smaller school and when I decided I wanted to play football at the next level, I knew Chowan was the place for me.”

Williams has played offensive and defensive tackle for Gates County and will likely play offensive guard at Chowan. He was named All-Tar-Roanoke Conference and All-Roanoke-Chowan in his senior year.

Biggy said the lineman would do well.

“He came out as a sophomore and played JV so he could learn the game a little bit,” Biggy said. “As a junior, he stepped in at right tackle and played every game and got better each week.

“In his senior year, he was right tackle and defensive tackle and never missed a play,” the coach added. “He turned into an outstanding football player. I think he will continue to grow and develop and Chowan will be very pleased with him.”

Williams said he learned important lessons while playing for the Red Barons.

“The thing that I have learned at Gates County that will help me at the next level is that size doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you put time and a lot of sweat in, even if you’re a small person the other guy can’t keep up and eventually you come out on top.”

Williams said he would always remember his time at Gates County and especially the energy with which he took the field.