By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies have been setting the standard on many local sports fronts this year, and now they’re doing so away from the field of competition as well.
On Thursday afternoon, five more Fortuna student athletes signed letters of intent to continue their playing careers in college, bringing the number of Huskies to do so to 10 in the past 10 days alone.
And that’s a group that includes six members of the school’s North Coast Section championship football team.
On Thursday, four of them signed on to play football at the community college level.
Sheaden Kadle will play for Butte, Iziaah Payne will play for College of the Redwoods, and both Cory Johnson and Micah Pronovost will head to Shasta.
Also on Thursday, the multi-talented Adam Medeiros signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Heidelberg University in Ohio.
Those five football players join the school’s basketball quartet of Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis, who all signed on to play basketball at CR next year, as well Camrin Dolcini who signed a letter of intent earlier this week to compete in track and field at Chico State.
Claus also played football, giving head coach Mike Benbow six players from this year’s senior class who will continue to compete at the collegiate level in some sport.
All in all, not a bad return for the school, and a shining example for their younger teammates.
“It’s a big day not just for the high school but definitely for Fortuna football,” said Benbow, who also is the school’s Athletic Director.
After signing their letters in front of friends and family, each of the players spoke briefly to the audience, mostly thanking their coaches for preparing them and their parents for their support along the way.
“I would really like to thank our coaches for pushing us to be our best,” Kadle said.
Benbow spoke highly of the group and praised them for what they brought to the team and the school.
“They’re hard workers,” he said. “They always cared about each other, and putting the team first was always their mentality. And we had a lot of success because of them.”
Together this group of players achieved unparalleled success, winning an H-DNL record 10 straight football playoffs games on the way to back-to-back NCS titles and a state championship in 2017.
It’s a legacy that may not be topped for generations.
“What they accomplished here at Fortuna is amazing,” Benbow said.
The next challenge
As for the college choices they made, each had their reasons and each is looking forward to the next challenge.
Payne will remain close to home, playing for head coach Frank Borba at CR, as the Corsairs look to build a successful program.
He choose CR in part because of the school’s emphasis on sending their student athletes on to four-year schools.
“Their coaches do a really good job working with their athletes and getting them to where they want to go,” he said.
Payne, who is undecided on what major he will pursue, will tentatively play defensive end for the Corsairs but has been told there will be opportunities at a lot of positions.
Johnson and Pronovost, who have been together in school since the second grade, will continue to remain side by side at Shasta, even playing alongside each other on the D-line.
“Shasta was the first team that really got in contact with me, and I’d been to the campus before and it was beautiful,” said Johnson, who wants to major in kinesiology.
Pronovost choose Shasta in part because of his connections with the area.
“I’ve got a lot of history in Redding,” he said. “My grandparents live there, and it’s a good school in general.”
Kadle, who was the team’s inspirational leader in 2018, will play on the offensive line for the Roadrunners.
And it was the Butte coaches that came calling.
“I got an email from their offensive line coach, and they were very interested after they saw my game film,” said Kadle, before adding with a smile, “they said I played with a chip on my shoulder, and they said that if you play like that, you’ll find a way to fit in here.”
Kadle, who is also enjoying a strong season in baseball this spring, wants to major in criminal justice and minor in wildlife biology on his way to becoming a fish and game warden.
“I got to visit, and I fell in love with it,” he said of the campus. “It’s a very family-oriented program.”
Medeiros, a star on the football field and on the wrestling mats, choose the latter sport for college, although it wasn’t always an obvious choice.
“For a while I wanted to play football,” he said. “But wrestling is my sport.”
He’s good at it too, leading the Huskies to back-to-back historic seasons that saw the program feature among the best teams in the NCS in the dual meet championships.
He will take those talents to Ohio, where he joins the Division-III Heidelberg program.
“It just seemed like the best opportunity for me,” said Medeiros, who had opportunities to join a number of D-II and D-III programs.
All five players will be missed at Fortuna.
“It’s been a pleasure to coach them,” Benbow said. “I’m excited for their future and what they’re going to do.”
The players themselves say they have enjoyed the ride.
“My time at Fortuna has been amazing,” Kadle said. “I came up with these guys.”