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Bulldogs celebrate pair of signees

May 5—PETTICOAT JUNCTION — Silver Bluff High School celebrated two of the prolific student-athletes on campus Friday afternoon at a signing ceremony, and the school's auditorium was appropriately full for the occasion.

Jordan Dobson will play soccer at Francis Marion University, and Aaliyah Lawrence is heading to Benedict College to play basketball.

"I actually didn't expect so many people to be here," Lawrence said. "It really actually feels better — at first I was nervous when I was walking in, but it feels better. I'm just happy to be here, happy to have everyone show up."

"It's a little nerve-wracking, because I don't do well in social situations like this, but it's also really exciting because I've always dreamed of having this little day, growing up and going to other people's signing days, and I'm just really excited to be here," Dobson said.

Both have made significant marks on their respective programs during their high school careers, and their departures made it bittersweet for their coaches to list their accomplishments.

"(Dobson) broke some school records. She had 56 goals throughout her years here at Silver Bluff," said girls' soccer coach Rachel Harrell, as applause filled the auditorium. "Last year, I asked Jordan to be a co-captain for our soccer team, and I saw a new side of her. She grew and supported her team through the ups and the downs, more ups the last few years so that was fun. I've really enjoyed watching Jordan grow. I've been her teacher, I've been her coach, and I'm going to be very sad that we're going to lose her this year."

"We're going to miss (Lawrence), that's for sure ... She hit her 1,000-point mark," said girls' basketball coach Chasen Redd, who also had to pause as the crowd applauded. "She's been All-State twice, All-Region, she's been Player of the Year in two different regions back-to-back. The sky is the limit for her, her ability, as smart as she is. I'm blessed to be able to send her off. Great parents and great support that we have here at Silver Bluff. I just can't wait to watch her play at the next level. We're going to miss her very much. Very, very much."

Dobson scored a career-high 24 goals this season, and she reached 56 for her career in just 31 games played. Francis Marion was the choice for her because it checked all of the boxes — not too big but not too small, not too close to home but not too far away, nice athletic facilities and a future coach and teammates she likes.

For those reasons, Francis Marion felt like home. She intends to major in biology to eventually go into physical therapy.

Dobson didn't really get to have a freshman soccer season — the team was on the bus to Midland Valley for the first game of the season, only to be sent home and for the season to be canceled due to COVID-19. Still, despite the less-than-ideal start, Dobson found plenty of positives to take from her high school career.

"Getting to teach girls" was her favorite, she said. "We're not known for our soccer, obviously, but getting to grow with the girls and teach them about soccer and just really enjoy having fun and not really worry about winning and whatnot, making those new friendships and just having a good time and not worrying about the wins and the losses."

Lawrence averaged 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 steals per game during her senior season as Silver Bluff won a third consecutive region championship and made another deep playoff run. She also averaged a double-double (15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds) as a junior, and during her time she helped the Bulldogs to two state semifinals and the program's first state championship game appearance.

The basketball program at Benedict appealed to her, and she said the coaches made her feel like they were going to love her as if she was one of their own. The school just felt right to her, and everything fell into place after touring so many schools looking for the right fit.

She intends to study political science to eventually become a lawyer. She has similarly high ambitions on the basketball court.

"I'm looking forward to just beating records," she said. "I plan on making a bigger name for myself rather than around here."

Lawrence said her favorite part of being a member of Silver Bluff's program has been building bonds with her teammates, getting to know them better and being there for them — and them for her — even when it had nothing to do with basketball. That's also what she hopes she's remembered for, above all of the wins and the records.

"I hope that they just realize that it was bigger than basketball here," she said. "We built a family, and I want everyone to continue to know that you've got to be more than basketball teammates to each other. Be a family, and just know that you can do it and anything is possible."

Dobson shared a similar sentiment. It's not the goals scored or program records she wants to be remembered for — she wants her younger teammates and future program leaders to remember the spirit with which she played.

"I hope that they take the love of the game from me, because I have loved this sport since I was 5 years old and I hope they just take that," she said. "I hope they take into consideration that if you're having a bad day, there's nothing soccer can't fix. If they have that support system around them, then they don't have to worry about anything else."