Photo: Southside High Scholl seniors Maddie Smith, Rachel Wilson and Dre’sen Champagne (pictured, from left) signed college athletic scholarships on December 7 at the SHS auditorium. (Chris McCarthy/MeCarthy)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Three Southside High School seniors recently expanded their academic and athletic horizons.
Rachel Wilson (volleyball), Dre’sen Champagne (baseball) and Maddie Gri-ffith (softball) signed junior college scholarship letters of intent on December 7 at the SHS auditorium.
Wilson signed with Coas-tal Alabama South in Bay Minette. An outside hitter, she led Southside in kills this past season while helping the Lady Panthers to a 34-26 record, a 13th straight Etowah County Schools Tournament championship and a third straight berth in the North Super Regionals. For the 2021 season, Wilson was named to the all-area and all-state teams, which are released in January of each year.
Wilson played for the Gadsden Volleyball Club, the Birmingham Elite and the Bama Elite national team. She also was SHS Homecoming Queen this past fall. Wilson plans on studying business marketing with the goal of attending dental school and becoming an orthodontist.
“To be honest, I really didn’t think I’d be able to make it this far,” said Wilson, who transferred from Gadsden City prior to her sophomore year. “[Coastal Alabama] really felt like a family when I visited. Ninety percent of [Coastal Alabama] athletes end up transferring to a four-year school, so it will be a good steppingstone to a D1 program.”
The 2022 Lady Sun Chiefs finished 20-14 overall and 17-7 in ACCC action while making it to the conference tournament semifinals.
“[Coastal South] is at the top of the Alabama Community College Conference [standings] every single year,” said SHS volleyball coach, softball coach and athletic director Angie Reavis. “[Coastal South] coaches Ritchie Dulaney and John Dussouy have been there for a long time, and I think Rachel will really enjoy playing for them. They hold their program to a high standard, and I think that’s what Rachel is used to.”
Champagne signed with Northwest Shoals Community College in Florence. Playing primarily at shortstop and second base, he led the 2021 Panthers in runs scored, was tied for most RBI and was second in batting average at .350. Champagne’s top-flight club baseball experience includes Top Gun Athletics out of Oxford and Charlie Culberson Baseball out of Rome, Ga.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a while, so it feels good,” said Champagne, who is considering studying sports medicine. “[Northwest Shoals] is a really good program that I can fit into. I’ve always kind of thought about it like, ‘Sacrifice now so you won’t have to sacrifice later.’ I love the [Northwest] coaches and I love the facilities.”
Champagne joins 2022 Southside graduate Drew McBurnett on the Patriot roster.
“It’s always exciting when you have players further their academic and athletic goals,” said SHS baseball coach Shane Chappell. “Dre’sen is an unbelievable competitor who is a hard worker, a good leader and a good teammate. He embodies the example of what we want our players to be. Northwest Shoals is where I played junior college, and Dre’sen will get the opportunity to play for and be mentored by my old coach, David Langston, who was an instrumental part of my life. Dre’sen is a very productive player for us and will be a key piece for us at the plate, on the middle infield and on the mound. I think his best years are ahead of him as far as what he’ll be able to accomplish in his baseball career.”
Griffith also signed with Northwest Shoals.
“I’m just honored to have gotten [scholarship] offers and have the opportunity to go to [Northwest Shoals],” said Griffith, who plans on studying accounting with the goal of becoming a CPA. “Coach [Angel] Brown welcomed me with open arms, and she has big plans for us.”
This past season, Griffith batted .412 with 42 hits 17 RBI and on-base percentage of .474 while making the All-Messenger softball first team at third base. She helped the Lady Panthers win a second straight Eto-wah County Schools Tournament title and was a member of the prestigious All Out travel softball team the past four years.
“Northwest Shoals is a good program, and Florence is a great area for Maddie to be in,” said Reavis. “She’s a great player who can do a lot of different things for us. I can see her catching, playing third and maybe shortstop this season.”
Assistant coach and former SHS softball standout Paiden Kircus has coached Griffith since the latter was in the seventh grade.
“Maddie is the type of player that every coach would like to have on the team and every player would like to have as a teammate,” she said. “She’s an all-out go-getter, and she has some of the best eyes at the plate I’ve ever seen. I have no doubt in my mind that she will be successful at whatever she does in life.”