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MILL CREEK – At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Derrick Villarico was a powerhouse on the gridiron for Tygarts Valley High School last season.

The senior standout will now to take his game to the next level after signing last week to play for West Virginia Wesleyan.

“I’m so excited,” Villarico said. “I never expected to go to college to play football. It’s always been my dream to play at the next level. I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get there and I’m excited to play football, but my academics have to come first.”

While Villarico didn’t play football until his senior season, his size, strength and determination are what caught the eyes of Wesleyan recruiters. During the campaign, he amassed more than 1,000 yards of combined offense and scored nine touchdowns. The effort earned him first team All Potomac Valley Conference.

“It’s going to be a big jump,” Villarico said. “I’m just going to have to put in a lot more work in the weight room. I know I’ve got to get bigger, stronger and faster.

“The game is a lot faster. I’m know I’m going to have to outwork the other guys.”

TVHS coach Joseph Arbogast believes Villarico won’t have any problems making the adjustment to the college game. He says Villarico’s best asset is his work ethic.

“He’s a great kid and I’m very happy for him,” Arbogast said. “He’s a great athlete and he’s got all the tools to play at the next level. I think the thing that really sets him apart is his work ethic. He’s a real leader in the weight room.”

Arbogast said Villarico played a variety of positions for the Bulldogs. However, he said Villarico excelled at running back and linebacker.

“It’s going to be a big step,” Arbogast said. “He’s very raw. I’ve spoke to him about the learning curve that he’s going to face and I think he’ll step up to the challenge. He did everything we asked of him and I think he will do the same at the next level.”

Villarico is the son of Billy and Tabitha Villarico.

He also participated in basketball at TVHS.