By Ray Hamill — When it comes to local sports, 2018 was no ordinary year, and certainly not for the faint of heart.
Mixed in with the usual assortment of thrills, drama and excitement, 2018 was one of the most controversial we’ve seen in a while, with several big stories that will have a lasting impact well beyond this year.
Humboldt State made plenty of headlines in 2018, for good and not-so-good reasons, as did the local prep football and basketball seasons, an historic summer at the Redwood Acres Raceway, the rising local popularity of MMA, and one unlikely star at College of the Redwoods.
Among many others.
This week, we’ll be taking a look back at the year in sports, breaking down the top 30 (maybe 31) local stories of 2018, starting today with Nos. 21-30.
On Wednesday, we’ll continue our look back at the year, before unveiling the top-10 local sports stories of 2018 on Thursday, as well as a few of our own favorites for good measure.
30T — Summer baseball thrills
No sport on the North Coast thrives as much as baseball.
From Little Leaguers all the way to the Humboldt Crabs, annually this area enjoys plenty of success on the diamond both in the spring and during the summer months.
No one, however, had a better summer in 2018 than the Humboldt Eagles 17U, who placed second in the state for the second straight year.
The Eagles featured just three 17-year-olds in 2018, so you can expect another challenge for a state championship in 2019.
A special mention to two other teams here.
The Humboldt B52s have evolved into a top-notch competitive summer collegiate team, playing at a new-look Bomber Field across from the Redwood Acres, and are one of the best kept summer sporting secrets here in Humboldt County.
And also the Humboldt Eagles 19U American Legion squad was a true North Coast all-star team this past summer for the first time in a long time, featuring the best players from throughout the entire H-DNL, while earning the top seed for the NorCal tournament for the first time ever.
30T — Arcata’s tennis dynasty
The Tigers know tennis.
In the spring, they swept their way to the boys Humboldt-Del Norte League title, and they followed that with a perfect girls league campaign in the fall.
It’s not just that they don’t lose any team matches locally, but they don’t lose many individual matches along the way either.
Arcata tennis is arguably the area’s most dominating high school sports program right now.
29 — The re-emergence of Del Norte football
Del Norte football was probably the most improved team in the H-DNL this year — in any sport.
After winning just two games on the field of play in 2017, the Warriors won nine in 2018, making it to the semifinal of the North Coast Section Division-IV playoffs for the seventh time in school history.
Led by seniors Ethan Price and Sebastian Puente, the Warriors memorably beat both Fortuna and St. Bernard’s in this year’s Big 4, solidifying their playoff status as the No. 2 seed in their bracket.
Their only losses came against state semifinalists Eureka and NCS champs Fortuna.
28 — Historic pennant for Fortuna wrestling
Led by senior Jacob Bernstein, the Huskies made their mark on the wrestling mats in 2018.
Fortuna edged out Del Norte by just 3.5 points to win the H-DNL crown, while also claiming a first-ever NCS dual meet team pennant.
Bernstein had 39 wins and qualified for the state meet, posting two wins there.
Six local wrestlers placed at the NCS meet, including Bernstein’s Fortuna teammate Adam Medeiros and Eureka’s Anthony Martinez, who were each fourth, barely missing out on state qualification.
St. Bernard’s Garrison Roach and Del Norte’s Skylar Moore and Ta-tes Boulby each also placed at NCS.
27 — Double delight on the diamond for South Fork
It was a good spring for the Cubs on the baseball and softball diamonds, with the school recording an historic sweep in the NCS.
The girls got hot at an opportune time, winning the Division-VI softball title with a 22-5 rout of Geyserville, while the boys followed that four days later with a 4-1 win over San Francisco Waldorf in Miranda for the Division-VI baseball crown.
Senior Scott Coffelt was instrumental in the baseball championship game, pitching a gem and also hitting a two-run home run in the first inning for what would prove to be the winning score.
The NCS title was the second in baseball for the Cubs — their first since 1996 — and the H-DNL’s 11th in 13 years.
The softball championship was the first ever for the school.
26 — Hoopa Valley softball wins Little 4
The Warriors ended a long run of dominance by Ferndale and St. Bernard’s in the Little 4 with their first league championship in a decade.
The Hoopa Valley girls capped an impressive unbeaten 12-0 league campaign by winning their final two games at closest rivals St. Bernard’s to seal the title.
Shortstop Alexia Jackson had a huge day on both sides of the ball in the league clinching doubleheader, while pitcher Hallee Colegrove was a rock in the circle all season.
It was one of the feel-good stories of the year, and one of the biggest surprises, with no one outside of Hoopa giving the Warriors much of a chance at the outset of the season.
25 — Eureka girls volleyball back on top
It was a very good fall for most of the Eureka High teams, including the Loggers volleyball team.
The Eureka girls ended an era of dominance by both Arcata and Del Norte in the Big 5, claiming their first league crown in several years.
They made it interesting too, storming out to a 6-0 start, before dropping their seventh match and then having to rally from 2-1 down against McKinleyville in their final league game to clinch the title outright.
It was a big breakthrough for head coach Rachel Evans and the Eureka program.
24 — The Humboldt Crabs
The Crabs are always the biggest local sports story of the summer in Humboldt County, and a tradition like no other in the area.
The longest continuous collegiate summer baseball team in the country celebrated its 74th season in 2018, and for many local sports fans, the Crabs are the biggest sports story on the entire North Coast every year.
They went 37-10 this year, but were particularly exciting, either rallying late in games or allowing their opponents to rally late in games, all of which made for several close finishes, and an unusually high number of walk-offs.
They also won a 20-inning game at the Redding Colt 45’s.
23 — Finck shuts down the Loggers
St. Bernard’s pitcher Garrison Finck enjoyed a stellar senior season, including shutting down a potent Eureka lineup that would go on to dominate the rest of the H-DNL.
Finck was the best pitcher on the North Coast in 2018, finishing the year with a record of 8-0 and an ERA of 0.68, including four complete games.
He held the high-octane Loggers to just two hits in one of those complete games, while striking out seven and helping the Crusaders to a memorable 4-0 win.
22 — Humboldt State women win CCAA Tournament
While the HSU men’s basketball team struggled last winter, the women’s team got hot at the right time with a memorable playoff run.
In addition to taking down nationally ranked UC San Diego in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship game, the Jacks knocked off No. 1 seed Azusa Pacific in the opening round of the NCAA regional tournament.
The CCAA championship was achieved in unlikely circumstances, as the HSU women rallied from six points down in the final minute of the game to pull out the win.
It was one of the most thrilling finishes in local sports all year.
21 — Hoopa beats Ferndale in football
It was 23 years in the making, but Hoopa Valley finally defeated Ferndale on the football fields, and the Warriors apparently had so much fun doing it, they decided to do it again.
Not since 1995 had the Warriors defeated their biggest nemesis, a span of 42 consecutive games.
But on Sept. 21, Hoopa defeated Ferndale 36-26, ending one of the longest streaks in local sports.
They proved it was no fluke either with a second win over the Wildcats at Ferndale High three weeks later, giving them the season sweep and an official winning streak against their Little 4 rivals.
The Warriors capped a breakout year with their first trip to the playoffs in seven years.
Next up …
On Wednesday we’ll take a look at some more of the top local sports stories of 2018, breaking down Nos. 11-20.
On Thursday we’ll unveil Humboldt Sports’ top-10 local sports stories of 2018.