By:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Wednesday was a big day at Harmony High School, as seven student athletes signed athletic grant-in-aid papers to continue their playing careers at the next level.  “We’re so proud of these athletes and what they accomplished here,” Athletics Director Dan Kerr said.  “Today the hard work and dedication they have put in is rewarded and we celebrate their achievements on the field and in the class room.”

Signing in a Wednesday ceremony at the school’s auditorium were football players Jayden Gomez, Reid Fitzgerald and Tyler McMorrow.  “These three guys are the epitome of what you want to see from your seniors,” Coach Don Simon, who announced he was stepping down last week to enter into athletic administration.  “These kids played through injury and adversity.  They switched positions without complaining and questioning it and were always team oriented and a great example for the younger guys.  With me stepping down, this was my last class of seniors and I could not be more proud of them.”

Gomez, a 6-0, 300-lb. offensive guard, inked with Knox College in Galesburg, IL.   Starting off as a defensive tackle, Gomez switched to offensive line and became an anchor of that unit – paving the way for record-setting running back Tyler Emans, who signed with Brown University earlier.

Fitzgerald will be attending Monmouth College (Illinois).  The 6-1, 225-lb. Fitgerald was mainly a blocking tight end for the Longhorns but did manage four receptions for 66 yards during the season and handled long-snapping duties.   But he also filled in on defense and special teams.  

McMorrow, a defensive end, will continue his football career at Division II Erskine College in South Carolina.  McMorrow recorded 35 total tackles last year, including 16 tackles-for-loss and five quarterback sacks for a Harmony defense that helped the Longhorns gain an at-large playoff spot and a 6-4 regular season record. 

Gomez and Fitzgerald may face each other in the future as both Knox and Monmouth are in the NCAA Division III’s Midwest Conference.

Three members of the Lady Longhorns soccer team  — Rebekah Wiles, Byrnn Magner and Daniela Canizales – also signed on Wednesday.   All three were midfielders on the Longhorn’s District Championship team that went 12-4-3 this season.

An explosive scorer and playmaker that tallied 16 goals and 13 assists, Wiles will attend Erskine College in South Carolina.  Canizales, headed for Florida Memorial, scored seven times and had 10 assists.  Magner, who will attend Wayne State (Nebraska), led the Longhorns in assists with 20 and also tallied six goals.

“Those three were the heart and soul of our team for the past couple of years,” Head Coach Scott Marlega said.  “They all played midfield and will create a huge void in our team next year.  Danni (Canizales) transferred in from Freedom before her junior year and I only wish we would have had her all four years.  The other two have been four-year starters for us and have been stalwarts in both or high school and club teams for a long, long time.  Bekah is a highly skilled technical player and Brynn has a motor that simply doesn’t quit.  While I am excited to see what happens in their college careers, they are going to be extremely hard for us to replace next fall.”

Capping off the signees on Wednesday was softball standout Dominica Kohout, who will attend Webber International University.  Kohout, an outfielder, has been a three-year starter for the Longhorns and currently leads Harmony with a .310 batting average and is tied for the team lead in hits with 13.  For her career, she carries a .306 average since breaking into the starting lineup her sophomore year.

In separate ceremony, St. Cloud announced the signing of Isabelle Salce, who will run cross country and track at Flagler College. Salce is a 400 and 800 meter specialist and is scheduled to run in both events at districts, as well the Lady Bulldogs 4 x 800 relay team.

Scheduled to officially sign on Monday are three-sport stars Alex Tuyo and  Drea Thompson (Read Thompson Feature Story Here: ), will ink athletic scholarship offers with Division-1 Jacksonville University – a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The 2022-23 Orange Belt Conference Player of the Year, Tuyo tallied 23 goals and added eight assists for the Longhorns, who lost to Celebration in the District Tournament semifinals.  Tuyo was also a member of the Osceola News Gazette’s All-County football team as a kicker, where he made 25 of 28 extra points and 10 of 14 field goals for 75 points; while averaging 38 yards per punt and registering 28 touchbacks on kickoffs. As a track star, was the OBC Conference Champion in both 100 and 400 meter hurdles.

“They indicated they will keep me at striker but said they may move me around based on needs of the team,” Tuyo said.  “I’m just excited about the opportunity to play at the next level.”

Thompson, who also excelled in flag football and volleyball, will attend JU on a track scholarship.  Tying for third in the Class 4A state championship last year, she is four-time defending OBC Champion in the event and is the top-ranked high jumper both in Central Florida and the Class 4A this year.   

A three-year starter on the volleyball team, Thompson is the co-captain of Harmony’s varsity flag football team, where she was Defensive Player of the Year last season.   She has been playing a key role in the Longhorns post-season run, that has included an OBC and District Championship for the 16-2 Harmony team that (won/lost) a regional game against Spanish River on Wednesday night.

Although gifted in many sports and activities, Thompson said she chose track and Jacksonville University because “It’s the sport I’m probably best at and because I love surfing and the ocean, it keeps me close to the coast.”

“Drea is a generational athlete that you would be lucky to get once in a coaching career,” Harmony track coach Adam Kerns said.  “She is one of the hardest workers that I have ever had the privilege of working with.  She is immensely talented, never complains, and is highly supportive of her teammates.  Her most impressive attribute is that between three high school sports, her education, her sports hobbies and her other interests, she has an incredible full plate of constant activities and yet excels in everything she does.”