Feb. 11—GARDNER — PikeView's Dylan Blake naturally excels in so many different sports, even he might have been surprised four years ago if someone told him what sport he'd ultimately be sought to play at the next level.
One of the Panthers' most gifted athletes in recent years charted his college course in a signing ceremony at the high school on Thursday, signing a national letter of intent to play football under head coach Tony Coaxum at Bluefield State College next fall.
"Yes, I would have been surprised. I was always leaning toward the basketball path," said Blake, who has lettered in soccer, football, basketball and track and field while attending PikeView High School. "[The signing] has taken a little bit of stress of my back now that it's done but I'm happy it's done," he said.
He intends to wrap up his high school athletic career at PikeView with his final season with track and field team this spring, where he competes as a long jumper, also serving as a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. He is currently still engaged in his senior hoops season with the Panthers, where he is on the books as the boys' program's all-time single game scorer.
Last season he scored a school record 42 points and then broke it again with 43 in back-to-back games with Nichlolas County.
Concord University and Culver-Stockton College (Mo.) were two other football programs whose offers Blake strongly considered. But in the end, his chance to be part of the recently-rebooted Big Blue program was a major motivator. He was recruited as a wide receiver by the Big Blue.
"I wanted to be part of the new family ... to be part of a program that was just getting up and running," said Blake, who intends to major in business at BSC.
As a youngster, Blake's fall sport was soccer. But head football coach Jason Spears recognized his potential as a skill player and convinced him to come out for football. On Thursday, Blake became the second Panthers player under Spears to sign with a college program, the first being Tanner Hazelwood, who signed with Glenville State.
Blake's natural prowess on the gridiron became evident in his sophomore season when he had 118 receiving yards against Bluefield High School. His off-season work ethic transformed him into one of the area's best all-around high school football players.
"After I played that sophomore year I was like, 'I like this.' I wanted to do it," said Blake
He excelled for PikeView on both sides of the football and in special teams. He didn't shy from physical play, serving some time as an outside linebacker in addition to his role as a wide receiver and defensive back.
Blake finished his senior season as a second-team WVSWA all-state selection and first team All-Coalfield Conference at wide receiver, having had 40 catches for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns in spite of having only played seven games due to COVID game cancellations. He managed to attend quite a number of college football games this past fall to get an idea of what he'll need to do to play at that level.
"I feel like if I put in the work, the transition shouldn't be too hard. I'm going to have to work for it," he said.
Spears has no doubt that he'll find a place for himself on the Big Blue roster.
"He was just the leader of our team. He was our go-to guy ... he made big plays for us," Spears said.
"He really likes the coaching staff at Bluefield State. In their first year of having a program Coach Coaxum has had quite a bit of success and he's a good leader for that program. He's pretty excited to play for Coach Coaxum."
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