By CHUCK COX/Park Cities People
Four Highland Park athletes ‹ two football players and two girls soccer players ‹ are moving on to the next level.
Center William Barns (SMU), midfielder Katie Martin (Villanova), and goalkeeper Sarah Howley (West Virginia) all signed national letters of intent on Wednesday afternoon in the school’s cafeteria. Wide receiver Matt Bannon will be a preferred walk-on at Iowa State.
Barns, whose father, John, was a Parade All-American while playing on the line for the Scots in 1980, is happy to be heading down the road to play for the Mustangs. Barns (6-3, 270) was a captain this past season and started for three seasons for the Scots.
“It definitely fulfilled my dreams,” Barns said. “It’s a long process, but I couldn’t be happier with how it ended up. Having all of my friends and family cone to see me play was a huge factor in my decision. There’s also a tradition of Highland Park linemen going to SMU. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Barns chose the Mustangs over Iowa State and San Diego State.
Bannon (5-11, 175) is also a two-year starter and a captain for the Scots. He played wide receiver and defensive back for Highland Park, but he said he’s looking forward to focusing on playing receiver for the Cyclones.
“They just started recruiting me first,” Bannon said. “I’ve been up there twice. I really feel like I connected with the coaching staff; they’re a great group of guys. [Iowa State head] Coach [Paul] Rhoads is a great guy. I’ll probably get redshirted, but then I’ll have a chance to play for a scholarship. I like the campus. I also want to do business, and they’ve got a great business school.”
Scots head coach Randy Allen was happy to see two of his players move on to the next level.
“We’re very proud of William, and proud we¹ve got another Highland Park guy we can go watch on Saturday afternoons,” Allen said. “William will make an outstanding football player. And then we’ve got Matt Bannon going to Iowa State. He thinks he might have a chance to help them out. He said they only have one other receiver signed.”
Martin and Howley helped the Lady Scots win their first Class 4A state championship in a decade last season. Howley was named the Class 4A Most Valuable Player of the state tourney after leading Highland Park to a 1-0 shootout win over Trophy Club Byron Nelson in the state finals. Howley will move back to her natural position of defender for the Mountaineers.
“I looked at some smaller schools along with some other girls on my team,” Howley said. “I’ve grown up in a football, big-school kind of family. Personally for me, it was really important to go to a big school. I got lucky West Virginia noticed me and how hard I worked. My final decision came down to it was just where I was happy. It’s a lot of fun.”
Martin, a four-year starter, decided to go with Villanova after the school recruited her during her sophomore year. She was also looking at Rutgers and a couple of other schools.
“It’s a smaller environment and a Catholic school,” Martin said. “It just has a really good feel to it. I’ve wanted to play in college for as long as I can remember.”
Lady Scots head coach Stewart Brown was glad to see his players earn college scholarships and be able to continue their playing careers.
“Both are very deserving,” Brown said. “Sarah is playing out of position in high school and has been very selfless in doing so. Luckily for her, she was the MVP at the state tournament last year. Her reward for putting the team first is she’s off to West Virginia and will certainly enjoy the experience she’s gained in the last two years making that transition.
“Katie’s one of the best players in the state, as far as I’m concerned. She’s halfway through her senior year and has scored 91 goals in her career already. Hopefully, she carries that over with her going into Villanova.”