By Ray Hamill — It’s been a good year for Ferndale youth sports.
In the fall, Ferndale’s AAA team won a Six Rivers Youth Football championship, and the area followed that up more recently with a hugely successful winter for the eighth-grade boys basketball team.
The Mustangs recently closed out their remarkable season with a record of 21-1, going a perfect 9-0 in league play.
In addition, they won three of the four tournaments they competed in, including taking a first-place at the prestigious Crescent City Jaycees Tournament, in the A-1 division.
More impressively, it was the manner in which the Mustangs won this year that stood out to long-time head coach Rex Rigney.
The Ferndale players got the better of several larger schools along the way, and did so by coming from behind on numerous occasions and finding a way to play big late in games.
“If they got down in the score, they didn’t get down in spirit,” Rigney said. “They really persevered.”
Just as remarkable, this was a team chosen from a Ferndale eighth-grade class of just 16 boys, with seven of them on the roster.
Ironically, the lack of numbers helped pave the way for the team’s success, with the head coach forced to pull up seventh grader Aaiden Burris, whose addition helped catapult the team to the next level.
“They’ve had good coaching in the past, and they have a nucleus that has gotten better every year,” Rigney said of the eighth graders who have been playing together for four years.
“Aaiden’s addition was the missing element. When we brought him up, they became a really good team. He was the last piece of the puzzle.”
Starters Jack Westfall, Kannon Christiansen, Carl Nunes and Cayden Collings each also had a huge impact with the team, which had impressive showings in tournament wins at Fortuna, Weaverville and Crescent City.
The latter turned out to be an expensive outing for the head coach.
“In the 17 years I’ve been coaching, I’ve never won the Crescent City tournament,” he said. “I always tell them, if they win the Crescent City tournament I’ll take them out to the Ivanhoe Restaurant, and if they don’t we’ll go for pizza. We’ve always gone for pizza, until this year. But it was a really fun day for all the players eating Ivanhoe steak.”
Mathew Hansen, Colton Kinsey and AJ Gildersleeve rounded out an impressive roster, with each also playing a pivotal role.
“Those three provided good support off the bench,” Rigney said. “They played hard.”
As for the future of this group, the head coach has no doubt they’re well capable of carrying on the success at the high school level.
“As long as they stick together and go to Ferndale High, they should do really well,” he said. “For our size school, it was pretty unreal.”