GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Simply put, the Raiders keep on rolling out the college signees.
That’s because on Saturday, as part of the annual River Valley High School Football Signing Day ceremony, three Raider seniors officially announced their college intentions — as Tre Craycraft and Robert Drummond will continue their careers at Marietta College while Josh Marcum made Muskingum University his future football home.
The ceremony — in which the three were flanked by the River Valley High School football coaching staff, school administration, family members and friends — took place at the Courtside Bar and Grill in Gallipolis.
For the Raiders, they have now had 11 players over the past three years commit to playing college football —including six following the 2015 season and two from three years ago.
Craycraft became the first 1,000-yard wide receiver in school history, while both Drummond and Marcum started and even lined up on the same side of the offensive line as seniors.
All three have committed to play at those same positions at the next level.
Craycraft and Drummond, both first-team all-Southeast District Division V honorees last season, will play for head coach Andy Waddle at Marietta.
“It means a lot that I have someone from my home school going to play with me,” said Craycraft. “That way, I’m not in a culture shock with no one else. Playing against Josh will be fun because all three of us are competitive. We’ll probably give each other some crap back and forth, but besides that it, it will be fun.”
Marcum, meanwhile, will join the Fighting Muskies of head coach Al Logan.
Both schools are members of the Ohio Athletic Conference, competing in the NCAA Division III.
River Valley head football coach Jerrod Sparling said this year’s trio of signees are “program guys”, who overcame adversity early on in their careers.
They are part of the winningest senior class in RVHS football history, which went 5-5, 7-4 and 6-4 in their final three seasons.
In 2015, the Raiders qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
“When we made the playoffs, that’s been the biggest deal I’ve ever been through. It meant a lot to everyone in the community. The football team, the school, everybody,” said Craycraft.
Everybody is right.
“This is especially rewarding for us as a football program and school and community. These are three purely program guys,” said Sparling. “All three guys that signed here today, each of them had their own individual situations that they had to work through. Tre (Craycraft) played his role and accepted it, then when it was his time his senior year, he became a star for us and became the school’s first 1,000-yard wide receiver. Robert (Drummond) had to wait until his senior year to start. I don’t know if there is anybody in our program that has fallen on more plyo boxes than Robert Drummond throughout his career. But over the years, he has worked so hard. So for it to finally come together for him physically and mentally, for him to have this moment, it’s a heart-warming story because he truly worked for and earned this. The same is true for Josh (Marcum). We weren’t sure about him making it as a younger guy, but low and behold, he had a great senior year and became one of the anchors of our offensive line. All three of these guys are program guys that worked their way up through the ranks and did everything we asked them to do. They earned everything they got. That’s so rewarding as a coaching staff, school and community to see these kids fulfill their dreams and take the next step in their football and academic careers.”
Both Craycraft and Drummond discussed why they choose to play for the Pioneers.
On the field, they said their offense is similar to River Valley’s spread-the-field formation attack.
“I felt Marietta and their coaching staff was more interested in me. I just liked the whole family aspect, especially how vaunted their offensive line was, which was pretty important to me. I took my mom with me, and they treated her very well and respected her. So it came down to just those factors and their educational aspects,” said Drummond. “And it’s not very far of a drive, only about an hour-and-a-half away.”
“Their (Pioneers) football program and their academics are both really good,” added Craycraft. “Their community, it’s not a big city. It’s kind of like Gallia County. Kind of like home. It’s not really a big change for me.”
Marcum mentioned a similar tone to his choice of Muskingum.
“One of the main reasons I choose Muskingum was because they have what I wanted to major in, which is nursing. And Muskingum felt very homie. It didn’t feel like it was two-and-a-half hours away. It felt like you were just right down the road,” said Marcum.
Drummond did visit Ohio Wesleyan a month ago but remained with Marietta, as did Craycraft, who took a gameday visit to John Carroll — when they played the Pioneers.
Craycraft caught the most attention of the three — obviously because he was a skilled-position player who starred at receiver, defensive back and on special teams.
“It means a lot because it means my hard work paid off. The coaches, I give them big thanks because they put me in positions to make the plays to get 1,000 yards. I give thanks to my offensive line for giving my quarterback Patrick Brown time to get me the ball, and to Patrick for getting me the ball,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to go play college football and now it’s happening. It’s a dream come true.”
It wasn’t always that easy, though, as all three explained.
The Raiders went 1-9 in 2013, as both Drummond and Marcum said they simply wanted to give up football at that time.
Both said they were frustrated by a lack of playing time, not to mention the lack of team success that year.
However, they stuck with it — and in the end — their hard work paid dividends as seniors.
“I wanted to quit football, but my mom has this rule where I am not allowed to quit anything. I’m happy that she has that rule. Because if not, I would not be where I am at. As a freshman, I was young and not very good. It was really bad. The only reason I was there was because my friends were playing. But things got better, I worked really hard my next two years, and finally got to start my senior year,” said Marcum.
“My senior year, it just seemed like everything came together and worked out the way it should and how I wanted it. Everything I wanted came together and happened,” said Drummond.
Drummond added that taking up the sport of wrestling his junior year especially aided in his football development.
He plans to major in psychology, while Marcum will major in nursing.
Craycraft, conversely, said he intends to study either Engineering or Land Management.
Already, they are looking forward to that Marietta-Muskingum matchup, which is set for Saturday, Sept. 23 at Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta.
“Playing together, I’m going to treat it like a regular football game. But at the end of it, no matter what happens, I’m still going to give them both a big hug,” said Marcum.
“I think all three of these kids made the right choice, and their futures are in front of them,” said Sparling. “That’s something we’re really proud of.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106