Photo: Four Southside High School seniors signed college scholarships on February 17. Pictured from left: Will Warwick (Lindsay Wilson College, football), Garrett Orr (Faulkner University, football), Michael Rich (Murray State, football) and Jennifer Clontz (Martin Methodist, bowling). (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Four Southside High School seniors signed college scholarships on February 17.
Will Warwick (Lindsay Wilson College), Garrett Orr (Faulkner University) and Michael Rich, Jr. (Murray State) signed for football, while Jennifer Clontz (Martin Methodist College) signed for bowling.
“Martin Methodist has a phenomenal bowling team that’s won many tournaments, and I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Clontz, who will major in elementary education. “Every single year at Southside, every team has been like family. We were on the lanes almost every single day to try to get better as individuals and as a team.”
Clontz was a part of four championship teams during her career. The Lady Panthers won the state titles in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Southside made it to the state quarterfinal round this past season. Clontz was an all-state and all-region selection and finished in the top 50 bowlers in the nation in 2019. Southside went 155-8 with Clontz in the starting lineup.
“Jennifer has an edge that it takes to compete at the highest level,” said SHS bowling coach Zack Blume. “Her drive and her determination are unmatched. She’s the kind of person that you’re happy to have on your team and hate for her to be on the other team. Jennifer is a fearless competitor who never believes anyone can beat her. She’s going to give everything she has in every game in order to win.”
Orr, Warrick and Rich helped the 2020 Panthers to a 7-4 record, 4,645 total offensive yards, a berth in the Class 6A state playoffs and a victory over county rival Etowah for the first time in four years.
“Ever since I started playing football, to play in college has been a dream,” said Orr, who plans on majoring in criminal justice. “We mainly struggled throughout my career, and to have a season like last year was really a blessing.”
Orr made the All-Region, All-Etowah County and All-Messenger football first team at offensive tackle and had 43 tackles and two sacks on the defensive line.
“Along with Will, Garrett anchored our offensive line this year,” said former SHS head football coach Gary Nelson. “I’ve coached a lot of quality young men, and Garrett is a player that I’ll always remember. He’s a fiery competitor who finishes every play and leads by example. The way Garrett competes sets the tone for others around him Garrett has a lot of things in store for him in the years ahead.”
Warrick made the All-Region, All-Etowah County and All-Messenger first teams at offensive line. He had 32 tackles on defense.
“I’ve been playing football since I was five, so this really is a dream come true,” said Warrick, who is considering studying business. “I really liked how [Lyndsey-Wilson’s] coaches kept us with me and showed a lot of interest during the recruiting process.”
“Will was a tremendous asset to our football team,” said Nelson. “He and Garrett has pushed each other so hard and have been such great teammates over the past several years. I recognized something very special in Will pretty quickly. Will is a very versatile player and intelligent football player who can play at several positions. He rarely makes a mental mistake, and when he does, he learns from it very quickly. Will is one of the best linemen that I ever had the privilege to coach. As a person, Will is incredibility reliable and makes his teammates better by his effort and dedication. He also has a very high ceiling and has the potential to grow into a very good lineman for Lindsey-Wilson in the years ahead.”
Rich was selected to the ASWA Class 6A All-State second team in the Athlete category after passing for 2,375 yards and 16 touchdowns with only seven interceptions while rushing for 332 yards and nine TDs. Rich also was named to the All-Region, All-Etowah County (as the team’s MVP) and All-Messenger first teams. Rich will also play golf at Murray State.
“Signing a college [football] scholarship is something you dream of as a kid,” said Rich, who plans on studying communications with an eye on sports broadcasting. “We didn’t know what to expect with Coach Nelson coming in and the COVID stuff going on, but we kept or heads down and worked hard in the weight room, and it paid off for us. We couldn’t make any [college football recruiting] visits because of COVID, so it kind of came down to relationships, and I got really close with the coaching staff at Murray State. We actually got to see the campus on an academic tour, and I fell in love with it.”
“Michael has a unique opportunity to play for a program that is a good fit for his particular skill set,” said Nelson. “When I first met Michael shortly after I arrived [at Southside], I quickly recognized what a special young man and what a special player he was. As a teammate, he was everything I could have asked for as a coach. Michael’s got an incredible talent level and has one of high ceilings of any player that I’ve ever coached. He’s blessed with tremendous potential, but he also possesses a tremendous desire to grow that potential.”