LAND O’LAKES — The lingering effects of Land O’Lakes’ run to the Class 3A boys soccer state title game continued Thursday afternoon.
Forward Josh Davis (Saint Leo) and midfielder Nathan Dalton (Jacksonville) became the third and fourth Gator seniors to sign with colleges, joining teammates Jake Frahm (North Florida) and Andy Garcia (Palm Beach Atlantic).
While Garcia and Frahm signed six weeks ago, Davis and Dalton needed Land O’Lakes’ strong playoff push to help secure their scholarships.
“It’s crazy,” Dalton said.
Dalton, an All-Sunshine Athletic Conference pick, was receiving some Division I interest from Florida Gulf Coast and Mount Saint Mary’s after racking up 24 assists this season. But recruiters’ interest picked up after Jacksonville coaches watched him in his team’s 3-1 loss to American Plantation Heritage in the state final.
The Dolphins’ new head coach, Ryan Pratt, offered him a scholarship a few weeks later after an official visit, and he committed to join the Atlantic Sun Conference program — and compete against one of his best friends. Dalton and Frahm have been close since they were 4, and they’ve discussed sharing an apartment in Jacksonville, even though they’ll be playing for rival schools.
“Even though we’re rivals, it doesn’t matter,” Dalton said. “We’re still best friends. It’s exciting.”
Dalton shared the excitement and Thursday’s ceremony with Davis.
Despite leading the North Suncoast with 33 goals during an all-conference season, Davis had little college interest until December. He had received a few replies from his emails to coaches but had no offers and was ready to accept a future as a student at UCF.
“I was just like, college soccer’s not in the picture right now,” Davis said.
But Gators coach Mark Pearson pushed Davis to recruiters hard. The University of Tampa and Saint Leo scouted him, and the Lions finally offered this month.
Saint Leo coaches want the speedy Davis to switch from forward to right back — a move Davis reluctantly accepted. After spending weeks thinking he might not play college soccer at all, he’ll take what he can get.
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com.