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Morgantown’s Cam Rice highlights February signing class, heads to WVU as a preferred walk-on

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The writing was seemingly on the wall when Morgantown star Cam Rice retracted his commitment from Fairmont State, an assumption he had received the offer he had been dreaming about since he was a young child. After some time, Rice finally sent the tweet a lot of folks were waiting for on Tuesday, officially committing to West Virginia as a preferred walk-on.

“I was thinking about my future,” Rice said. “I really wanted to follow my dream.”

Rice, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound stud, did a little bit of everything for MHS – quarterback, running back, linebacker, safety and defensive end, mostly – but plagued by injury, he had to overcome a lot in a short amount of time. The first significant injury came during preseason scrimmages in his junior season, a leg injury essentially benching him the entire year except for a few games. Then, a similar injury happened before his senior season kicked off. But, as Monongalia County dealt with blows from COVID-19 and the team struggled to fully adopt new coach Sean Biser’s Wing-T, Rice was able to recover from his leg injury and help lead the Mohigans in a late-season run. 

Morgantown’s Cameron Rice (8) stiff arms Bridgeport’s John Love on Friday. (William Wotring/The Dominion Post)

“Facing all that adversity and getting through it, grinding every day, getting better every day, at the end of the day it all paid off,” Rice said. “[I told myself] it’ll all pay off in the end.”

And now heading into college he’s decided to stick to the defensive side of the ball and work to get a starting job at DE. 

“Toward the end of the year, the  coaches tried me out there,” Rice recollected. “Everything just came naturally to me. I was making plays and having fun out there.” 

The process for Rice, though one of struggles, is one of a dream, too. Many athletes who make their home state’s flagship university football team may say this, but for Rice, it’s literally a dream come true. His grandmother has been an administrative assistant for the head coach for nearly 30 years, helping keep Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez, Dana Holgorsen and, now, Neal Brown, organized. Because of this, Rice has been in and out of the facilities his entire life. With Brown taking over for Holgorsen two years ago, it was about that time Rice’s skills began to catch the attention of recruiters. Rice noted that when Brown came in and he attended junior day, things were falling into place that made him want to go to WVU more than before.

But the offer didn’t come immediately. He chose to commit to Fairmont State less than a month ago on Jan. 9, but, soon after, word came he could make good on his dream as a preferred walk-on. Now, with the stroke of a pen, he’s officially a Mountaineer. 

Morgantown’s Cameron Rice (8) sacks Hedgesville’s Owie Ash on Friday.

Rice is the second preferred walk-on to come from Morgantown this year, as he joins Howley Award winner Caden Biser. Further, he’ll be joining former MHS teammates Preston Fox and Nick Malone on the roster. So what are his thoughts on a preferred walk-on spot, rather than a scholarship position? 

“I like to keep the mindset that I am an underdog and I have something to prove. It makes me work harder, and I don’t want to feel like I had anything given to me,” he said. “I think there’s a ton of talent at Morgantown and across the state. Honestly, we’re underrated and I feel like a lot of players in the state play with that same chip on their shoulder that I do.”

And what are his freshman-year goals?

“I want to ball out and earn a scholarship as soon as possible,” he said. “And get on the field as soon as possible.”

Caden Biser, MHS, Football; West Virginia University 

Morgantown linebacker Caden Biser verbally committed to West Virginia well ahead of National Signing Day, but made it official as the first Morgantown athlete to sign their letter of intent. 

Biser, the 2020 Howley Award winner, will join the Mountaineers a PWO in the fall. He’s the second Biser to play for WVU, following his father who played in the early 1990s. 

Morgantown’s Caden Biser (32) rushes the ball against Bridgeport on Friday.

“I’ve always been dreaming about playing as a Mountaineer and when the opportunity came I knew it was the right choice for me,” Biser said.

When asked if his dad’s college career had any influence on his choice, he noted it came into play “a little bit.”

“Knowing he played there and getting to play exactly where he played, it’s meaningful,” Biser said.

Biser said he believes he’ll bring a hard work ethic to the team and will be there everyday to get better and work harder. Further, he’ll be the next in a line of Mohigans who have excelled within the WVU program, such as Kyle Poland and Nick Malone. He also joins Morgantown alumnus Preston Fox, a PWO in the 2020 class, and current teammate Cam Rice who also garnered a PWO. Poland, a walk on himself who earned a scholarship at long snapper this past season, could now go on to play in the NFL. Biser noted following that same path is a goal of his. 

“That’s my goal – get [out there] starting every Saturday,” he said. 

Tanner Slavic, MHS, Football; William and Mary

Tanner Slavic’s senior year wasn’t the best at the start. Not only did he have to deal with COVID-19 shredding his season at MHS, he was still recovering from a line of injuries and labrum surgery.

“It’s been a tough road with injuries, set backs,” he said. “[I just kept] getting back up and grinding, get better everyday.”

But, when the rubber meets the road, he’s still playing Division I ball at William and Mary. He fell in love with the campus and coaches and looked at the situation as, “In case football doesn’t work out, what’s my education going to look like?”

A nice scholarship certainly sweetened the deal. Slavic joins the Tribe as a defensive end, but his love for the area was on full display at his signing. 

“It’s beautiful there,” he said. “The education is phenomenal, great football team, the coaches, [I] just love em. The area’s nice – beach is right there, what can beat that?”

The Tribe ended the 2019 season 5-7, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic was unable to play in the fall. The Colonial Athletic Association did, however, decide to move the football season to the spring, and W&M kicks off its schedule on March 6 at Richmond. They will only play a six-game season, though, doubling up with the Spiders, JMU and Elon. 

Drew Kemper, UHS (Columbus Crew SC), Men’s Soccer; Robert Morris

The UHS logo and red curtain may have been hanging behind him as he signed his LOI to play men’s soccer at Robert Morris, but Drew Kemper’s time with the Hawks was limited. Instead, he decided to focus on club soccer. 

Kemper noted the proximity to home and new coach Jason O’Keefe drove him to choose RMU, verbally committing last week. When asked about when he knew he wanted to play at the next level, Kemper noted it’s always been a goal. 

“Ever since going into 8th-grade is when soccer [got] serious for me,” he said. “I started traveling cross country, started putting a lot of work into it. My freshman and sophomore year I played for the Columbus Crew and then moved up there my sophomore year, lived with a host family and then that was basically when [I realized] I was doing this for college, to have my college paid for.” 

Kemper, a center back, only played for UHS for one year – his junior year – when the Hawks made it to the state semifinals and lost. Further, he’s just one of six people from West Virginia to make the Columbus Crew Soccer Club and play at that high level.

Other schools he was talking to during the recruitment process was UMass-Amhearst, Elon, Wingate and West Virginia Wesleyan. 

As for what’s next?

“I can’t wait to keep playing. The journey begins, part two. I’m excited to get better and try my hardest,” he said. 

Tristen Bright, UHS, Women’s Soccer; Fairmont State

After a long, four-year varsity career with the University girls’ soccer team, Tristen Bright is taking her skills just down I-79 to Fairmont State. 

University’s Tristen Bright attempts a shot against Parkersburg on Thursday.

Bright, a solid defender and powerful attacker when needed, finished her preps career with 29 goals and 15 assists on 151 shots. Through 56 games, she was a stalwart defender for the Hawks, helping the team hold opponents to 0.52 goals per game in her sophomore season, 1.21 goals per game in 2019 and 1.46 goals per game last year, through just 13 games. 

“Everything that I heard about it turned out to be true, and everything I heard about it was good,” Bright said. “I loved everything about it. Everything I wanted was in the school.

“My family always pushed me to want to be there [play in college].”

Bright also noted that Fairmont State was the only school she had her eyes on and visited.

Fairmont State was unable to play its fall season due to the MEC shutting down contests due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they will begin play this month, kicking off an eight-game regular season against Wheeling. The MEC Tournament will be held April 19-25. 

In 2019, the Falcons secured a 13-5-2 overall record and dominated the conference with an 11-2-2 run. The Falcons’ season came to an end in the MEC Championship game, however, falling to Concord, 2-0. 

Deondre Crudup, MHS, Football; Glenville State 

Deondre Crudup exploded onto the scene in the last few weeks of the 2019 season, and became a centerpiece of new Morgantown coach Sean Biser’s Wing-T. After bullying defenses and equally stymying opponent offenses, Crudup finalized his decision to commit to Glenville State. 

Crudup announced the decision to join the Pioneers on Monday. 

Morgantown’s Deondre Crudup (35) rushes in for a touchdown against University in the MoHawk Bowl on Friday.

“The day I walked into the facility, it was beautiful,” he said. “The coaching staff is a vibe to be around and they’re trying to build a huge thing up there. I’m for that.”

He noted that he’s built a relationship with head coach Mike Kellar and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and enjoys the atmosphere of the weight room. Crudup noted that atmosphere is similar to Biser’s weight room intensity. In a prior interview with The Dominion Post, Crudup noted this was a major pull for him. 

Zack Owens, MHS (Post 2), Baseball; Davis and Elkins

Zack Owens wasn’t able to step onto a baseball field donning his Mohigan garb in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was able to fill some time with Post 2, the local American Legion travel team. Still, even without a junior season to hang his hat on, Owens caught the eye of the Davis and Elkins coaching staff, and has officially committed to joining the team. 

“I’m super excited and blessed to be given this opportunity,” Owens said. “Ever since I stepped on campus, it felt like home to me. It’s up in the hills, really beautiful and I have a relationship with one of the coaches, so it felt like a place I’d [be] comfortable with for the next four years.”

As for his upcoming senior season, he’s excited to finally get a crack at another successful season, now under the direction of Pat Sherald. 

“It’ll be good to go out and play with all my friends again. Haven’t got to play since sophomore year so being able to do that is big,” he said. 

Owens is a middle infielder, but did not mention if he would stick with that role in college.

Quincy Thornton, MHS (Appalachian Aces), Baseball; West Virginia State

Like his teammate Zack Owens, Quincy Thornton missed an entire high school season due to the pandemic. Also like his teammate, he stood out enough to get the attention of an in-state college, West Virginia State, and accepted an offer to continue his baseball career there. 

“It was really the coaches, they wanted me the most. I think that was big for me, being wanted,” Thornton said.

Thornton has two teammates from his travel team, Appalachian Aces, that also plays for State. 

“That made it a lot easier. I’ll be able to room with them,” he said. 

Thornton will be playing shortstop. He also secured a big scholarship that helped push him toward the in-state college. 

“I didn’t have a junior season and not a whole lot of schools were able to recruit so they [Appalachian Aces] took us to a lot of places in the fall. A lot of coaches were there and that gave me an opportunity,” Thornton said. 

Hannah Calvert, MHS, Lacrosse; University of Charleston

Although not a sanctioned sport by the WVSSAC, lacrosse has a solid following and player-base in the Mountain State. Of the few powerhouses that exist in the state, Morgantown is one of them. That was pivotal in pushing Hannah Calvert to continue her athletic career in college, committing to the University of Charleston women’s team. 

“I’ve visited a few places and the second I stepped on UC’s campus – it’s kind of corny – I just knew it was home,” Calvert said. “Everyone there was super nice, it was a different experience than every other place I went to because every single time that I’ve visited a campus, no one was completely hands on like everyone I met at UC.” 

Calvert was also big on the coach, Akasha Kasper.

“She was super amazing,” Calvert said. “She introduced us to the entire team, set up group text chats and it was super welcoming and definitely something I loved. I love being in a family environment and that’s the team I truly wanted to be with.” 

Calvert knew she wanted to continue her career after her junior season was canceled due to COVID-19. 

“I was like, ‘Wow, I really love playing lacrosse and I haven’t had much time to play as I want to so I definitely want to play in college.’”

Other schools Calvert looked at were Gannon, West Virginia Wesleyan and Alderson-Broaddus. Lacrosse, like other UC sports, is part of the Mountain East Conference. 

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