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Davis finds new football home at West Liberty

This isn't quite Orlando. Disney World isn't nearby and the mild temperatures won't last into the winter.

This is West Liberty University, located on a mountaintop in rural West Virginia. Follow the winding road to the campus, situated 20 minutes from Ohio and 45 from Pittsburgh, and it takes you to the new home base for Brandon Davis' football career.

Unhappy with his playing time at Central Florida, where he spent three seasons, the Peachtree Ridge grad decided in February to transfer to another college. He eventually decided on West Liberty and reported to the NCAA Division II school in early August.

"The day I got my release (from Central Florida), they were one of the first schools to contact me," Davis said of West Liberty, which is conveniently closer to his many relatives in Philadelphia. "I took a visit, met with the coaches and watched practice. Everything just clicked here. I liked the place and I knew it was a place where I could play right away."

Getting on the field played a big role in his decision.

Davis played a good amount as a Central Florida true freshman in 2008, but his playing time waned from injuries and other reasons. He appeared in only two games in 2009 and played in just one game last season as a junior.

The most notoriety he got from his time at Central Florida came late in 2008, at the end of his freshman season. He collapsed during workouts and was hospitalized, but suffered no long-term effects from the incident.

The 5-foot-11, 218-pounder has good memories from the past three seasons, but he simply didn't get on the field enough. He's hopeful of a shot at making an NFL team after college, but until his transfer to West Liberty he didn't have a lot of game tape to show scouts.

"It came down to playing time," Davis said. "Me being a competitor, I'm not going to sit on the bench when I feel like I can play. The coaches obviously had their opinion and I had mine. But it's been my lifelong dream to play in the NFL and I can't do that if I'm sitting on the sidelines."

At West Liberty, he won't be on the sidelines much.

He made his debut last Saturday, carrying 18 times for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a road loss to Edinboro (Pa.). He lines up in the backfield alongside quarterback L.D. Crow, who also transferred from Central Florida.

The two are hopeful of big things this season at their new school.

"The goal for us is to win our conference, but the ultimate goal is to play for the Division II national championship Dec. 17 on ESPN," Davis said.

Davis said West Liberty also is a good academic fit for him. A sports management major, he lost some credits in the transfer that pushed his graduation back to the fall of 2012.

But it was worth it to get on the football field again.

"I came up here to put myself in a better position to get to the next level," Davis said.

SOCCER

Baker gets SEC honor

Georgia goalkeeper Ashley Baker, a Parkview grad, was named the SEC defensive player of the week after helping the Bulldogs to the Minnesota Gold Classic title last weekend.

Baker, a redshirt sophomore, had 12 saves and earned defensive MVP honors in the Minneapolis tourney, holding host Minnesota to a single goal and shutting out Iowa State in the title match. Minnesota attempted 15 second-half shots and 12 corner kicks, but Baker was equal to the challenge.

CROSS COUNTRY

UGA runners shine at home meet

Former Parkview teammates Brett Richardson and Brian Detweiler, now fellow runners at Georgia, had high finishes in last weekend's UGA Invitational.

Richardson was fourth in the 8K race in 25 minutes, 12 seconds, just three seconds ahead of the fifth-placer finisher, Detweiler.

Fellow Bulldogs Sean Brennan of Brookwood (16th, 26:10) and Steven Spevacek of Parkview (18th, 26:11) also had top-20 finishes.

GCSU locals finish highly

A pack of former Gwinnett prep runners fared well in last weekend's Bobcat Invitational at Georgia College and State University.

Shiloh grad Tyler Mattix, a GCSU senior, led the way with a second-place finish in 28:01 on the 8K course. Teammate Colin Conroy of Mill Creek was fifth (28:29) and Collins Hill grad Rob Manning was 14th (30:25).

Parkview grad Rebecca Shane had a good showing for GCSU in the girls 5K race, taking eighth in 21:58.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.