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STANHOPE - Over the past decade, Southern Nash has proven to be a fertile recruiting ground for football schools in the Division I Atlantic Coast and I-AA Southern Conferences.

Two more Firebirds can be added to that prestigious list after last Wednesday's National Signing Day ceremonies on the SNHS campus.

That's when SN defensive linemen Kwamaine Battle opted to join the program at ACC power Virginia Tech, while Firebirds' teammate Nick Williams, an offensive lineman, signed with SoCon school Western Carolina University.

"It's a special day because these are both good kids who have worked hard,'' said SN head coach Brian Foster. "They have done the right things on and off the field. It's nice to see them get rewarded.''

Such gridiron success is becoming customary at Southern Nash, which has now produced seven SoCon and three ACC performers over the past 10 years.

Battle had an opportunity to follow in the ACC footsteps of former Firebird stars Julius Peppers (North Carolina) and Dwayne Herndon (North Carolina State).

Battle was more than happy to accept an offer from the Hokies following a visit to the Blacksburg, Va., campus last summer.

Battle quickly made a verbal commitment to VT and made good on his pledge, despite the fact that several Division I schools continued to pursue him.

"Kwamaine went up to Virginia Tech and liked the place right away,'' Foster said. "He met the coaches and just felt really good there.''

After being slowed by a knee injury as a junior, Battle erupted during his senior season with 91 tackles, including eight sacks and 16 stops for a loss. He was selected as the NEW-6 Defensive Player of the Year.

Like Battle, Williams was also a three-year starter for the Firebirds. Following his senior campaign, the right tackle was tabbed as a All-NEW-6 Conference selection.

But unlike Battle, Williams continued his recruiting process close to National Signing Day before opting for Western Carolina over Elon and Gardner-Webb.

At WCU, Williams will be reunited with former Firebird Dorian Battle, who is a member of the Catamounts' football team.

"Nick talked to Dorian, who helped him with some things,'' Foster said. "I think another thing that sold Nick on Western was the offensive line coach there -- Drew O'Daniel. It was important for Nick to feel good about the guy who would be his position coach, and I think Nick really liked Coach O'Daniel.''

One day, Williams may even line up against another former teammate -- Gary Tharrington. A defensive end, Tharrington helped lead Appalachian State to the NCAA Division I-AA title last season (for the second straight year).

Western Carolina and Appalachian are rivals in the ultra-competitive Southern Conference.

"As long as Nick keeps up his work ethic, he is going to be fine,'' Foster said. "Just because he is going to a smaller school doesn't mean that the football isn't at a high level. These guys can play in that conference. And not only that, Western Carolina plays Alabama and Georgia next year.''

While Williams will play against the elite teams in the SoCon, Battle will line up against the ACC's finest as part of a program that has seen its expectation level rise in recent seasons under respected head coach Frank Beamer.

"I'm not sure whether Virginia Tech is looking at him inside or outside,'' Foster said. "He might even have the speed to play outside. Definitely, Kwamaine's best days on the football field are still ahead of him at this point.''

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