Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
Injuries interrupted the senior varsity football seasons of the Hunt High duo of quarterback Nathan Lemons and safety ShyHeim DeBerry.
Both are healthy now but, nonetheless, each welcomes the opportunity to have a year to prepare for his return to the sport at the next level.
Neither will play football again until 2020 as the result of signing National Letters of Intent with Barton College — which returns to college football in the 21st century as an NCAA Division II member.
Lemons, the 17-year-old son of Debbie and Daniel Lemons, and DeBerry, the 17-year-old son of Arnisa DeBerry and Jamar Robinson, announced their intent Thursday afternoon during a ceremony for four Warriors athletes with college futures in the school theater.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Lemons was limited to seven games because of a broken ankle, while the 5-11, 186-pound DeBerry missed two games because of a torn ACL.
The extra year is especially advantageous for Lemons because he expects to be shifted from quarterback to wide receiver.
"I'm a little comfortable because I used to play receiver on the junior varsity," Lemons noted. "From a quarterback perspective, I know what it takes. I like it. I'm glad to have the opportunity and I'm glad Barton gave me a chance at receiver."
DeBerry revealed that he played hurt with a knee injury before finally tearing his ACL.
"I love the game so much that I played with a hurt leg," he said. "This is a great opportunity because it gives me an extra year to prepare."
Lemons and DeBerry join Hunt teammate Christian Phaby, who signed with the Bulldogs on National Signing Day back in early February.
BARTON STUCK WITH THEM
Lemons was also approached by Saint Andrews Presbyterian and North Carolina Wesleyan. He is receiving an athletic and academic package. The possessor of a 3.4 grade-point average, Lemons plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
"Barton (head coach Chip Hester) stuck with me," Lemons commented of the recruiting process, "and that's where I always wanted to go."
DeBerry chose Barton over North Carolina Wesleyan. He owns a 3.0 GPA and indicates his field of study will be physical therapy. DeBerry, who will receive an academic package, looks forward to being utilized at either free safety or strong safety.
DeBerry echoed Lemons' sentiment by expressing: "Barton stuck more with me. It's closer to home. They are building new things that are coming together. It's a good community."
In seven games, Lemons, who played baseball his senior year, completed 38 of 104 passes for 503 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed for 142 yards.
DeBerry, in nine games, notched 27 solo tackles and 22 assists. Previously involved in track as a hurdler, DeBerry registered one tackle for lost yardage, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Both Barton recruits played two years of varsity and jayvee football for the Warriors. At the varsity level, they endured a pair of three-win seasons.
However, DeBerry emphasized the scarcity of wins emphasized him to work harder. Despite the adversity, Lemons declared he "enjoyed it a lot and was glad to be part of it." He, however, acknowledged the frustration of not being able to finish his high school career because of the injury.
To say the least, Keith Byrum, the head coach of DeBerry and Lemons in 2018, voiced pleasure with the decisions of each.
"I'm thrilled they continue to get to play the game, Byrum expressed. "I am especially excited they are going to be here in our backyard. That's something that just doesn't happen that often.
"I am really proud of these guys. They took on responsibilities as seniors you can't give to everybody."
Byrum describes Lemons as a player who "can play anywhere or do anything" on the football field. He's convinced Lemons can develop into a capable quarterback, excel at the offensive end and receiver positions or even as a defender.
"Nathan can play for them at any of the skill positions," Byrum contended. "His ceiling is high."
DeBerry switched to safety his senior year and performing capably at linebacker and running back. Byrum hailed him for having a great understanding of defensive schemes and for his vocal leadership that prompts his teammates to listen.
"He was the quarterback on the defensive side," Byrum noted, "and he's going to get better and better.
Now, DeBerry and Lemons look forward to exciting times in a new program
"It's very exciting," DeBerry expressed. "Wilson hasn't had anything like this. It's going to be a big thing for the community and everybody is going to be there."
Added Lemons: "It's pretty cool. There's a new football thing going on and I'm pretty sure it will go over well. I'm going to practice the offseason and continue to work to get better."
DeBerry explained he has played organized football since age 5 and the desire to play collegiately has "always been there."
Both consider themselves blessed that athletic prowess will strongly influence their opportunity to earn a college education.
"Football is not an easy sport," DeBerry said, "but it got my interest and I wanted to play it. I plan to go harder. Stuff is not handed to you and you have to work hard for everything you get. Every opportunity I get, I have to take advantage of it."
DeBerry contends he needs to add muscle and improve leg strength and speed.
"I want to come to the team, be a leader, make an impact, play hard and get a good education at a good school like Barton," DeBerry outlined his goals.
This summer, Lemons hopes to work out with the upcoming Hunt team, get extra help from the coaching staff and emphasize speed training.
"God gave me the ability to play the game and my coaches and my family have pushed me to get better," Lemons remarked. "I want to be successful and hopefully get a starting position as a receiver."