By Richard Dunn     2/23/2017

Five football players, three soccer performers, three track and field athletes, three lacrosse competitors and a water polo standout highlighted the 15 Santa Margarita Catholic High School student-athletes who signed a National Letter of Intent or committed to their respective college Feb. 1.

In an interesting twist, triplets Grant Calcaterra, a football wide receiver, girls’ soccer standout Claire Calcaterra and possible future Michigan business student Andrew Calcaterra were huddled together with their parents, Chris and Diane, along with Diane’s father, Jim, who flew in from Auburn, Ind., for National Signing Day ceremonies at the school.

To honor her son’s signing with Oklahoma, Diane Calcaterra wore a Sooners sweatshirt, but also donned a Kansas State scarf to pay tribute to her daughter who will play soccer for the Wildcats.

At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Grant Calcaterra is expected to play tight end or a big-bodied receiver position for the Sooners, following a stellar gridiron career with Santa Margarita, in which he established four school records, including the most 200-plus-yard games in a season, the most touchdown receptions in a game and the most consecutive games with 100-plus-yards of receiving as he finished his Eagle career with 105 receptions and 1,884 yards.

Selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game New Year’s Day in Orlando, Fla., Calcaterra has officially been listed as an “athlete” by most recruiting services, which means he’s a player who is strong, fast and versatile.

Calcaterra, a first-team All-Trinity League and second-team All-Orange County honoree, chose Oklahoma over several other colleges, including Florida, Oregon, Texas A&M and Louisville. Calcaterra is already on campus at Oklahoma as an early enrollee.

Brett Neilon, a 6-2, 280-pound center and considered one of the top offensive linemen in the country, signed with USC.

A first-team All-Trinity League and first-team All-Orange County choice, the multitalented four-star offensive linemen selected the Trojans over myriad other schools, including Michigan and Washington, which were among Neilon’s top three choices.

Defensive back Darian Fernandez inked with Southern Utah, after finishing his Santa Margarita career with 78 tackles (45 solo), five interceptions and 17 pass deflections. Also, as a kick returner, Fernandez compiled 439 yards on 22 kickoffs, an average of 22 yards per return.

Eagle quarterback Richard Wagner committed to Cornell of the Ivy League, after starting all 12 games in 2016, leading Margarita (7-5) to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Wagner, who started his first game as the varsity quarterback his junior year against JSerra and led the Eagles to an upset victory after throwing for 181 yards and three touchdowns, finished the 2016 season with 2,156 yards passing and 17 touchdowns, while earning second-team All-Trinity League.

Wagner holds school records for the highest percentage of completions by a quarterback in a season at 64.4%, and the most consecutive completions at 12. Off the field, Wagner is an Eagle Scout, plays contra bass in the Honors Orchestra, and carries a 4.25 GPA.

Division III and Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships, but athletes are recruited and often provided with other types of financial aid, awards, grants and/or scholarships.

The fifth Eagle football player to make a college commitment was defensive end David Xavier Chen, who is headed to Claremont McKenna in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Last fall, Chen contributed 60 tackles, three sacks and five quarterback hurries, and off the field serves as senior class president.

Representing the Lady Eagles’ soccer program, Marisa Yocca (UC Santa Barbara) and Michael Bogart (Cal State Fullerton) joined Claire Calcaterra on signing day and sealed their Big West Conference future.

Calcaterra merited second-team all-league as a sophomore. Bogart has sparked a defense this season that has allowed only two goals in five Trinity League games. The Eagles currently occupy first place in the Trinity League and carried an overall record of 12-3-3 in early February.

All three players were significant assets for the Eagles during their junior years as the school captured CIF and California State Regional championships, and all three are three-year varsity starters.

In track and field, middle-distance runner Samantha Walsh signed with the University of Portland, and sprinter Lauren Drysch and multifaceted athlete Erin Gerardo both committed to Yale. Last year, Walsh, Drysch and Gerardo were part of the Lady Eagles’ celebrated track and field unit that won its second straight CIF Division III championship.

Walsh is also a cross-country standout, Drysch is a three-time Most Valuable Sprinter award winner on the team and Gerardo, one of the top all-around athletes in the county, competes in the pole vaunt, both hurdle races and is a member of the school record-setting 1,600-meter relay team. As a junior, she qualified for the state championships in the pole vault and 1,600 relay, and is ranked in the top 50 in the nation in both events.

In boys’ lacrosse, defenseman Sean Mack will continue his career at Whittier in the SCIAC, while Margarita teammate Chase Lynch, a premier face-off specialist, will play at Denison.

Erin DiBernardo of the girls’ lacrosse team signed with Arizona State, and boys’ water polo center Jack Baumgardner inked with UC Irvine.