With each of the players dressed in the colors of their chosen college, Adams had a light blue suit and blue bowtie as he signed to play football at The Citadel. Two girls’ soccer players, Tess Mrozek and Merrin Gilmer signed Division I letters of intent with ETSU and Samford, respectively. Others who signed included boys’ soccer player Braeden Elbers with Carson-Newman, baseball player Carson Lodge with Bryan College and softball player Mia Edwardson with Walters State.
Adams, the 2017 Johnson City Press Elite 11 player of the year, passed for 1,630 yards and 12 touchdowns, and rushed for another 1,431 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season. He piled up 5,722 career all-purpose yards and was named first-team All Big East Conference the last two years and All-State this season.
“The Citadel treated me like family,” Adams said about his college decision. “It was like being home at Science Hill with the way the coaches treated me. I could see a family bond and that’s what I remember most about this past season. I think about how we have all grown up over the years. We started on a high, hit a low point, but then pushed back to finish strong.”
There are obvious challenges attending The Citadel, which is officially called The Military College of South Carolina. It is one of six United States senior military colleges and its football program has been ranked as high as No. 5 in 2016 and No. 8 this past season.
“It’s like a normal college, except for the military aspect,” Adams said. “They hold accountable to a higher expectation, but I think that’s what you need in life.”
Mrozek, the Hilltoppers’ outstanding goalkeeper, was named the team’s most valuable player for the 2017 season. She has been the starting keeper the past three seasons after transferring from University High. She was an all-district selection all four years, at the 1-A/AA level with the Lady Bucs and at the 1-AAA level with the Lady ’Toppers. She was also named first-team, all-region and was a leader on the team which reached the state tournament in Murfreesboro.
During the spring seasons, she played on the FC Dallas U19 Girls team in 2017 and is currently the starting keeper for the FC Alliance Knoxville ENCL Girls U18 team. She chose to stay close to home and thus close to family.
“I enjoy going to all the sports around here and it keeps my parents local where they can come to games,” Mzorek said. “We had such a good season and it has been such a great experience playing for Science Hill. I loved the coaching, playing on the field, just everything about it was great.”
Gilmer, who played at Providence Academy her freshman and sophomore seasons, was the Lady Knights’ leading scorer and team offensive MVP her sophomore season. At Science Hill, she earned first-team all-district and all-region as the Lady ’Toppers swept conference, district and region titles. Playing soccer since she was three, she will now play soccer at Samford, whose head coach Todd Yelton is the son of Johnson City pastor Roy Yelton.
“It’s crazy to think about playing at a Division I level,” she said. “I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I’m ready for it. I think back to this past season at Science Hill and it was so fun to get to the state tournament even if it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”
Elbers is another product of the local soccer scene, starting out in the Johnson City Parks and Rec league in 2006. He’s played club soccer for Vitesse, FC Dallas and FC Alliance in Knoxville before coming back to Johnson City to play for JCFC. During his high school career, the Hilltoppers made the state finals his freshman year. Last season with his junior year, Science Hill made it back to the state semifinals.
Lodge, a catcher for the baseball team, was praised by coach Ryan Edwards for his work ethic and character. He’s a strong defensive catcher about whom Edwards said that no one outworks in the weight room. He goes to a Bryan program which has flourished under head coach Todd Hasty, winning over 35 games each of the last four seasons.
Edwardson, an all-conference infielder the last three seasons, hit .455 with nine home runs last season when she was named to the All-State team. Her first three years, she has a .340 batting average with 23 home runs, 32 doubles, 93 RBIs and 89 runs scored. She maintained last year’s average despite being walked 49 times. She goes to a Walters State program which has a couple of other local products on the team, Lexi McDowell from Daniel Boone and Emily Whitaker from Happy Valley.