Xzavior Bowden and Jay Watson

Xzavior Bowden, left, and Jay Watson sign their national letter of intents. Bowden will attend Independence Community College, while Watson will be going to Louisburg College.

Two of Goldsboro High School’s star Cougars are leaving the den.

Xzavior Bowden signed his national letter of intent with Independence Community College in Kansas, while Jay Watson will be going to Louisburg College.

“I love playing here, I love the people that I played with and the coaches, without them the game would’ve been boring,” Bowden said.

Bowden, Goldsboro’s starting running and linebacker, had a prolific career for the Cougars. He posted 4,385 rushing yards, averaged 7.8 yards per carry and rushed for 49 touchdowns. He also has 262 total tackles and four interceptions. Bowden will be a big boost for the Pirates, who finished 2-8 last season.

“I was very undecided, and I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I kind of didn’t want to go to school in North Carolina “ Bowden, who wants to major in business management, said. “I have nothing against North Carolina, but I feel like there’s more out there for me, so I needed to get away.

“I was looking for a job, but I got a leap. I just feel like my whole life I’ve made up mind on what I wanted to do and I want to be one of the best at what I did if not the best, so I must try to outwork everybody.”

Watson, a defensive and offensive lineman, in his lone season with the Cougars, had 88 total tackles and two sacks. He heads to Louisburg to help a Hurricanes team that finished 6-3 last season, but allowed 212.9 passing yards per game. Offensively, the Hurricanes averaged 182.8 rushing yards a game.

Watson will give the Hurricanes more flexibility on both sides of the ball. After visiting the school, he instantly fell in love with all it had to offer on the football field and in the classroom.

“It feels very amazing, I’ve pictured this day for years growing up,” Watson said. “For my senior year to switch over to Goldsboro and make such a big impact, it feels very special.

“I picked Louisburg because it was a small school, and I feel like that would be the choice for me to just be able to go there, and focus on my books and football. As soon as I walked into the weight room and saw the boys lifting, I knew this was the environment I want to be in.”

In this day and age, high school coaches are judged by wins and losses more than ever. Often overlooked is producing quality student-athletes, and helping them get an opportunity to earn college degrees.

Goldsboro head Timothy Ray stood tall like a proud father watching two of his players move onto the next level. Ray said both young men have outstanding work ethics and he is proud to see them living out their dreams.

“That’s what it’s all about, furthering their education,” Ray said. “Watching the guys succeed in the classroom and watching them succeed on the field is a proud moment to watch them pursue their dreams of playing at the next level.”