By Ray Hamill — Numbers are down slightly for the Corsairs in 2018, but in terms of quality and balance throughout the lineup, head coach Frank Borba is about as happy as he’s ever been in his five years with the team.
“I’m really excited about this team,” said Borba. “The total numbers are a bit down, and there a few factors involved, but I’ll tell you what, the starting 11 on both sides of the ball, it’s as good a team as we’ve ever had here.”
That optimism will be challenged right away with a tough matchup at home to Monterey Peninsula College to kick things off on Saturday.
The game will be played at Humboldt State’s Redwood Bowl because of the ongoing construction at CR, and Borba knows it’ll be a tough start.
The Lobos are back-to-back defending Golden Coast Conference champions, finishing 7-4 in 2017, with plenty of experience on the sideline in five-time conference coach of the year, Mike Rasmussen.
“They’re arguably one of the best coached teams we’ll play,” Borba said. “They’re going to be prepared and ready to play a college football game. It’s going to be a good measuring stick for us.”
The Corsairs, however, will present plenty of tough matchups themselves, with what appears to be a balanced offense.
A new-look offensive line will anchor things, and while this group is largely unproven, they go nine deep and will give the coaching staff some options and plenty of competition.
“It’s about the most we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” Borba said. “They’re a bunch of new guys, but they’re big, they’re athletic and there’s a lot to like about them.”
At quarterback, Brody Lucero out of North Bend High will get the start after redshirting last season.
“He’s set himself up to be the guy for us for the next couple of years,” Borba said.
Alex Adams out of Lakeport and Mo Francois out of Fort Lauderdale will back-up Lucero, who should have plenty of options to throw the ball to.
“Offensively, I feel like we’ve got all the weapons we need,” the head coach said. “We’ve got a good stable of running backs and a lot of guys at receiver that just seem like a dynamic group.”
Former Eureka standout Marcus Finney will play receiver, along with Angelo Flores, a sophomore out of Gresham, Ore., who is also the 2018 California community college track and field state champion in the javelin.
Zach Loveland out of Las Vegas will also start at receiver.
“It’s just a group I’m real excited about,” Borba said.
At running back, Elijah Hicks, also out of Las Vegas, will see plenty of carries, along with returning sophomore Anthony Bowman out of Oceanside, and freshman Amari Tidwell from Dublin, CA.
Tome the ‘ultimate competitor’
On the defensive side of the ball, Teejay Tome from Hawaii returns to anchor the line.
In his debut with the team in the season opener a year ago, he finished with two sacks and a scoop for a TD, and Borba will be hoping for more of the same from Tome against Monterey Peninsula.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” Borba said of Tome. “A guy you want to build your defensive line around.”
Alongside him, tackles Jordan Randall and Josiah Vaiolo, both out of Washington, join the team as true freshmen.
Big true freshmen.
“Randall is about 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, while Vaiolo goes 6-6, 290.
“They’re both big and athletic,” Borba said.
Also starting along the line will be Dakota Moore, a former teammate of Lucero’s at North Bend.
At linebacker, sophomore Chriss Giacomozzi out of Cascade, Idaho, returns, and will anchor the unit, alongside freshman Randy Tuitasi from Oceanside.
The defensive backfield features a pair of returning corners, Tana Liana out of Hawaii and Ibraheem Ball out of Washington.
At safety, former St Bernard’s standout Damian Natt will start alongside Kaimana Swann-Merritt from Hawaii.
Most complete group
Also expected to see a lot of time on defense is former Del Norte player Levi Scribner.
“He’s our skeleton key. He fits in everywhere and does a little of everything on defense,” Borba said of the 6-1, 220-pound returning sophomore. “He’s got that body type. He’s a good athletic kid.”
The Corsairs’ preparation for the season wasn’t helped with the cancelation of a scheduled scrimmage at Shasta due to the wildfires, but Borba expects them to be ready to go by kickoff on Saturday, nonetheless.
“I’m excited about this group we’ve got,” the fourth-year head coach said. “It’s the most complete group we’ve had.”