BARNWELL — Five seniors from one of the most successful classes in the Barnwell football program's history are headed to college.
Briggs Kearse (Wofford), Dallyon Creech (Erskine), Craig Pender (Erskine) and Isaiah Williams (Limestone) will all be staying in state. Linebacker Deshawn Watson is headed to Kansas to attend Hutchinson Community College.
Kearse, the Class AA Lower State Lineman of the Year, has been a four-year starter for the Warhorses. He and Williams were an integral part of the team's success running the ball, and when the offensive scheme started to mix in more passing.
Wofford's tradition of success played a factor in Kearse's choice.
"That, plus the education and the coaches and the feeling I had when I went up there," Kearse said of his decision to attend the FCS school in Spartanburg. "It was special and different from anywhere I've visited, and I've been to a lot of schools."
His fellow offensive lineman is headed to the upstate, as well. Williams signed with Division II Limestone in Gaffney. For him it was the authenticity he felt on his visit that sealed the deal.
"I've actually always had contact with the coaches," Williams said. "When I went up there it was more so the players that made an impact. When they weren't around the coaches, they kind of told the truth and it really was what the coaches described to me. They embraced me and really wanted me there, so it was an easy choice."
Pender and Creech, two of Barnwell's biggest offensive stars, are headed to Due West to join the upstart Erskine football program. Each said they're looking forward to bringing the type of success they became accustomed to at Barnwell to Erskine.
Pender passed for 4,811 yards during his two seasons as the starter, helping navigate the Warhorses to back-to-back state championship appearances. His accuracy has been one of the biggest positives of his game. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes in both his junior and senior season.
"It's going to be different. I'm excited and nervous. It's so many different emotions right now," Pender said. "I'm glad I get to take Dallyon with me. The fact that we have a chance to make history up there has really been a big selling point for me."
Creech was one of the Warhorses' 'big play' players and Pender's most targeted receiver the past two years. He lined up all over the field and even played defense at times.
In each of the past two seasons he's had more than 600 receiving yards and 600 rushing yards. He finished his four seasons at Barnwell with 3,593 all-purpose yards, 39 total touchdowns, 67 tackles and six interceptions.
"It's a big risk," Creech said of choosing a program in its infancy. "We think we're going to make history. That's the main part. We want to be remembered."
Watson, who has led the team in tackles this season, will spend some time at Hutchinson Community College before going elsewhere.
Watson finished the year with 172 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 14 sacks.
"It's an awesome day," Watson said. "I'm going to miss this school right here, but I can't wait to get to college."