WOODSTOCK — Declan Franklin has known for quite a while where he wanted to attend college and recently the Central senior got his wish.
Franklin signed a Letter of Intent in mid-December to play football at Football Championship Subdivision school Virginia Military Institute. Central held a signing day Wednesday afternoon for him and classmates Alex Mantz (Shepherd University) and Tycara Scott (Roanoke College).
“It’s incredible,” Franklin said Wednesday afternoon in Central’s library. “It’s something remarkably small like 2 percent or something crazy like that get to play football at the Division 1 level out of high school football players. It’s awesome. It’s something I’ve strived for, for a long time. It’s something I’ve wanted for a while now. And to now finally be able to get it — it’s exciting.”
Franklin said VMI offered him a preferred walk-on spot for the Keydets on Dec. 16. Within a day or two, he had signed and committed. He said VMI head football coach Scott Wachenheim came to Woodstock and made the offer in person.
Franklin said that his older sister went to VMI and that’s when he first became interested in the school. He then went to camps there and took an overnight visit last year and knew immediately that’s where he wanted to go.
“I got to see really the atmosphere and how it all developed,” Franklin said. “It was just unmatched. It was awesome.”
As a freshman, Franklin went to Massanutten Military Academy and he said that’s where he first fell in love with the military lifestyle.
“That’s where I started to experience military life,” he said. “And that’s always something that’s helped me. The structure there helped me throughout high school.”
Franklin had a stellar season for the Falcons this past year, playing at both offensive line and defensive line. He was the Region 2B Defensive Player of the Year. He finished with 97 total tackles and an area-best eight sacks for Central this year.
During his time at Central, the Falcons had a combined regular season record of 27-3.
VMI plays in the Southern Conference and went 1-10 last season. The Keydets play at FBS school Marshall University in their season-opener on Aug. 31.
Mantz signed her Letter of Intent to play Division II softball at Shepherd University on Wednesday. She said that she took a visit to the school last year and knew it was for her.
“I went and took a tour of the campus and it was kind of like home,” Mantz said. “It was like a university in the middle of Woodstock, but with a little more. From there I knew it was where I wanted to go.”
Mantz said Shepherd head coach Marissa Leslie offered her a partial scholarship in October. Mantz said she had quite a few Division 1 schools interested in her, including George Mason University and Radford University, but she felt like Shepherd was the perfect fit.
“I’m just excited to play ball in college,” Mantz said. “It’s been a dream since I was like 4 years old.”
Last season for the Falcons, Mantz batted .507 (36-for-71). The catcher had 13 doubles, an area-best four triples, four homers, and an area-best 31 RBIs.
Mantz said it felt great to have the signing out of the way and not have to worry about it during the upcoming season.
“It’s like pounds off of your shoulders, because I’m committed, signed and my academics are there,” Mantz said.
The Rams play in the Mountain East Conference and were recently voted as conference favorites this season. Shepherd went 34-20 last season, including 22-10 in the MEC. They advanced to the Division II, Atlantic 1 Regional tournament last season where they went 1-2.
Mantz won’t be the only area player on the Rams’ squad. Tori Seymour, a 2018 Sherando graduate, is a freshman for the Rams this season.
Scott signed to play women’s basketball for Division III Roanoke College on Wednesday. Scott said she just fell in love with the school when she went for a visit in the fall.
“The campus was beautiful,” Scott said. “Everything around it was pretty. It’s in a nice town where there’s things to do, but its not a huge city. So that’s another good thing. When I went there it felt like home to me. I just felt really welcomed.”
Scott is averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Falcons this season. She said that it feels great to know that she’s going to be able to play in college.
“I feel really relieved because I never really thought I was going to get this far,” Scott said. “I started in basketball pretty late. I didn’t start until somewhere in middle school. I was later than what my sister did. I didn’t really think I was talented enough to reach this level. But I had amazing teammates, amazing siblings that helped me to get to where I am today. So I feel really relieved that I was finally able to get to this level.”