Leopards chasing bigger goalposts

Feb. 10—Five Gainesville High School seniors signed on to college football teams this week.

Three of the students, London Daniels, Jesse Luna and Cade Searcy, signed on to play together at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Yonas Franklin signed on with Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. Ja'Vaun Hendricks signed on with Fort Scott College in Fort Scott, Kansas.

Four of the five signed letters of intent to play football. However, Ja'Vaun Hendricks signed for track.

Daniels plays defensive end and tight end on the football field. He scored seven touchdowns this past season, six of which from rushing plays. He has also played baseball and basketball at GHS.

"He's the kind to impress and set a great example," said Coach Bruce Davis. "He's set the expectations and standards for years for the youngsters who are up next."

Luna played football as wide receiver and defensive back with a career total of 29 catches for 559 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was unable to play his senior year due to a leg injury early on in practice. However, his work ethic leading up to his injury had college teams looking to sign him already.

"The thing about Jesse is before his senior year, he put in so much work," said Coach Robbie Newton. "He never complained ... he just went about his business with a great attitude."

Searcy plays quarterback, defensive back and punt returner. In the 2023 season, he totaled 1,224 passing yards with an average of 136 passing yards per game. During his time at GHS, he also played baseball and basketball.

"There's a lot more to Cade than his game," said Coach Hunter Turbeville. "His character, his work ethic ... and these are all the traits that will make him successful."

Franklin plays football as cornerback and wide receiver. He had 30 solo tackles this past season with 45 his high school career. He also plays basketball and baseball and had the honor of signing on his birthday.

"Yonas is such an amazing young man," said Coach LJ Searcy. "I've seen what he's like in practice ... This young man, without a shadow of a doubt, has what it takes to take it to the next level."

Hendricks signed on for track with Fort Scott. Last May, he finished sixth in the 200-meter dash, as well as competed in the 100-meter dash. He also plays basketball and football.

"When he was a sophomore, I was at my first year in Gainesville," said Coach Deontre Haynes. "I will never forget the look in his eyes when he didn't make it to finals in regionals. The look in his eyes told me everything I needed to know about him: He is a kid, a man now, who when he sees something that he wants, he's willing to work for it."

Overall, the sense of camaraderie among the students and coaches was palpable. Not only is one of the students, Cade Searcy, the son of Athletic Director Neil Searcy, but many of the the students and coaches have connections extending prior to their high school career. Many memories of the athletes achievements and antics were shared by the coaches.

"What you do and what you mean for this program, what you mean to the soul of this community," Athletic Director Neil Searcy said to the students. "I can't wait to see the growth in this next step in your life."

Everyone is looking forward to what these young men have ahead of them.

"To every single one of you guys that are progressing to the next level," said Davis, "You make sure you finish what you started, because you're representing Gainesville, your families, and most importantly, you're making your name a household name."