Bradshaw football's Latham, Fabela ink letters to play for NAIA schools
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Bradshaw Mountain High senior football players Derrik Fabela and Zach Latham signed letters of intent to play college ball at separate National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) programs on Wednesday morning, Feb. 3, at Gary Kunow Gymnasium.
This fall, Fabela, a speedy 5-foot-9, 165-pound wideout/return specialist/defensive back, will attend Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska, while the 6-0, 295-pound offensive/defensive lineman Latham heads to Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota.
"These kids are dedicated to our program, and they want to play football at the next level," third-year Bradshaw Mountain coach David Moran said. "It's a good thing for our program. It's another step in a positive direction. Our younger guys can follow their act."
On 2016 National Signing Day, Fabela said he should suit up at cornerback for Peru State. Former Bears star quarterback Tyler Audsley played for Peru from 2012-15, and his younger brother, former Bradshaw standout tailback Colton Audsley, will continue playing there as a sophomore in the fall.
Fabela and Colton are close friends who competed together for the Bears in 2014.
Fabela said he had offers from other schools, but when Peru State offered him a scholarship this past week, he couldn't pass it up.
"He (Peru State coach Steve Schneider) wants me to come in and play (cornerback) right away, so I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team succeed," Fabela said. "Ever since I was a kid, this has been my dream. I've always wanted to play college football. And it's going to be fun that I get to play with Colton again."
Latham, a three-year varsity starter, played at Bradshaw only in 2015 after transferring in the off-season.
Latham, who competed as a junior at Queen Creek, as a sophomore at Gilbert, and as a freshman at Campo Verde, said he considered not playing football again after the death of his mother, Cynthia, in February 2015.
But Latham later changed his mind when he relocated to Prescott Valley, where he and his father, Mike, have family.
"I'm happy that I drove myself to come out and play ball, because I really enjoyed it," Latham said. "And now I have this opportunity to play college football."
Latham added that he's "very thankful, blessed and happy" to get to go to Dakota State, following a successful state-playoff season with Bradshaw. Initially, he will play on a partial scholarship for Dakota State coach Josh Anderson, a former varsity head coach at Chino Valley and Payson high schools.
"Zach is a tremendous individual," Moran said. "When he first came on board, we were very impressed with his character overall, his leadership skills. He cares about his coaches and his teammates. He'll be the first one to step up and lead the way."
Latham said he's spoken with Anderson over the past two weeks and learned that Dakota State's a "smaller, well-rounded program," which best suits him. The Trojans finished the 2015 season with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the North Star Athletic Association.
"They're actually a pretty dang good football team," said Latham, who wants to major in business and communications. "I'm pretty excited to get on out to Madison, South Dakota, after I graduate and play ball again."
Latham started the 2015 season at defensive tackle before switching to offensive line to fill a need. He said he plans to play right guard or center at Dakota State.
Moran, who's seen more than a handful of his players move on to play college ball over the past few years since he took over at Bradshaw, encourages his players to play at the next level.
"We not only talk about what we want them to do in our program, but for their education and going on to a four-year university," Moran said. "We want to help our kids as much as possible, and that's very important."
Fabela, who was born in Glendale and grew up in Wickenburg before moving to Prescott Valley in the fifth grade with his family, said he intends to major in exercise science at Peru State. His father, Chris, was at Wednesday's signing ceremony, along with several other Bradshaw players.
Moran said Fabela "has good tools" and is "very talented."
"Derrik is a very competitive individual - he's done everything that we've asked him to do the last three years since I've been here," Moran said. "He's very committed, he's loyal, and he hasn't missed a practice in the last four years that I know of. He definitely deserves this opportunity to go up to Peru State and make a name for himself. He earned it."
Fabela, a two-year starter for the Bears, intends to start at Peru State. In 2015, Fabela had 498 all-purpose yards as a tailback, wideout and kickoff returner. Defensively, he registered 27 tackles.
"I want to come in and get some playing time," Fabela said. "I want to just have fun. That's what football's all about."
Moran said four of his other seniors in the Class of 2016, including linebacker and All-Courier defensive player of the year Angel Gonzalez; Division III All-State defensive lineman John Trout; defensive back Alex Price; and wideout David Otero have college offers but have yet to commit.
Gonzalez is leaning toward signing with either NCAA Division II Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado, or Western New Mexico in Silver City, N.M., Moran said, although he has had looks from NCAA D-III Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Peru State.
Moran added that Price is considering Hamline, Western New Mexico and NCAA D-II Colorado Mesa University, while Otero is contemplating Dakota State.
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