By Ray Hamill — With graduations now over and attention switched to the lazy days of summer, it’s a perfect time to take a look back at what was a sports year for the ages in the H-DNL, and time to hand out a few well-deserved honors.
Football, basketball and softball, in particular, set standards that will not easily be topped in the coming years, with several teams and individuals leaving their mark well beyond the Redwood Curtain.
And so here we go with our end-of-year awards for 2018/19 …
Athlete of the Year – Girls
Del Norte, Senior
Sanchez was not only a two-time Big 5 MVP in the one year, but she was the catalyst in changing the fortunes of a Warriors basketball program and a legendary prep star who will be remembered as one of the all-time greats at Del Norte High.
2 — Katie Hurst (Fortuna), no one was better at what they did best than Hurst has been in each of the past four years.
3 — Makaila Napoleon (Eureka), an outstanding three-sport star her entire high school career.
4 — Camrin Dolcini (Fortuna), one of the best basketball and track and field stars this year, who made it all the way to the state championships in the latter.
5 — Jasa Sisemore (St. Bernard’s), a legitimate MVP candidate in soccer and basketball.
Game of the Year
St. Bernard’s at Fortuna in football
A 56-54 overtime win for the Crusaders on Oct. 19 in what was undoubtedly the most thrilling game of the school year.
Mark your calendars for Nov. 2, 2019 and the regular season finale in Eureka between these two teams, because they haven’t disappointed in recent matchups.
Breakthrough Team of the Year
Eureka Girls Wrestling
Brace yourselves, the Loggers are only going to get better.
Breakthrough Sport of the Year
Brace yourselves, this sport is only going to get bigger.
Hoopa beating Ferndale in football
It had been 23 years, a total of 42 straight games, since the Warriors knocked off powerhouse Ferndale in football, but they did it on Sept. 21 in a game that will go down as the breakthrough performance of the school year.
Record Breaker of the Year
Thea Norlund, Arcata
The exchange student broke the Tigers school record in the 1,600m a remarkable three times this spring, hammering the old mark by several seconds.
Cruz Montana (Eureka)
Olivia Alves (McKinleyville)
No athlete epitomized toughness on the North Coast this past year more than these two.
Montana played almost the entire state semifinal football game with a broken jaw, remarkably leading his team back from a two-touchdown deficit.
Alves broke her thumb in the first inning of the NCS softball championship game playing catcher, but brushed it off and refused to let it take her out of the biggest game of her career, on the way to leading her team to a section title.
Best Rivalry on the North Coast
McKinleyville and Arcata
In pretty much anything, but especially baseball, basketball and more baseball.
Under the Radar
McKinleyville Girls Golf
The Panthers remarkably won won a second straight NCS crown in a sport the H-DNL has not traditionally fared well in at the NCS level.
Honorable Mentions: Arcata Boys Tennis, Fortuna Girls Track and Field, McKinleyville Boys Track and Field, and Arcata Girls Cross Country
Most Dominating Individual Season
Fortuna Track and Field
No high school athlete on the North Coast performed at an elite level more than Hurst, who made a fourth straight trip to the state championships in the high jump.
Not too many local stars can genuinely say they were among the very best at what they do in the entire state for all four years of high school.
Honorable Mentions: Riley Martel-Phillips (Arcata Cross Country), Thea Norlund (Arcata Track and Field), Aracely Rendon (Eureka Wrestling), Adam Medeiros (Fortuna Wrestling)
School of the Year
The Huskies were front and center in so many sports this year and enjoyed hugely memorable campaigns in football, boys soccer, boys basketball, wrestling and girls track and field.
Honorable Mention: McKinleyville
Fans of the Year
They were certainly the loudest. They had reason to be.
Honorable Mention: McKinleyville
Coach of the Year
St. Bernard’s Football/Baseball/Basketball
No local coach had a bigger impact across more sports than Tomlin, who fields competitive teams in all of them year after year after year.
I’m not sure he ever takes a day off.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Benbow (Fortuna Football), Teresa Stavert (Arcata softball), Scott St. John (McKinleyville Baseball), Troy Ghisetti (Arcata Baseball), Jason White (Eureka Football), Daniel Holmes (Fortuna Boys Soccer) Justin Clifton (Del Norte Girls Basketball), Tyler Mitchell (Hoopa Boys Basketball), Tony Miles (Fortuna Boys Basketball), Shanna McCracken (McKinleyville Softball), Glenn Moore (Hoopa Softball), Andy Salatny (Eureka Girls Soccer), Mark Gardner (St. Bernard’s Girls Basketball)
Sport of the Year
Hands down, because no other sport on the North Coast has ever claimed three of six section titles in one season.
What an incredible spring it was for local softball, a sport that continues to grow in stature here.
The coaches throughout the North Coast deserve a ton of credit for building the game in recent years.
Honorable Mentions: Basketball, Football, Baseball
Player of the Year – Boys
Tyce Mullins, Eureka Football
An award given to the one player who had a bigger impact on his respective team than any other in the H-DNL.
Mullins was the best player on a Eureka football team loaded with outstanding talent and a catalyst in leading the Loggers to a second straight undefeated regular season.
The senior linebacker was the best at his position that we’ve seen here on the North Coast in some time.
Honorable Mentions: Cruz Montana (Eureka Football), Will Omey (St. Bernard’s Football), George Navarro (Hoopa Basketball), Merek Sears (Arcata Baseball), Lane Thrap (St. Bernard’s Basketball), Ethan Price (Del Norte Football), C.J. Van Meter (South Fork Baseball), Connor Chase (St. Bernard’s Football), Miles Meynell (Eureka Football), Sheaden Kadle (Fortuna Football), Caleb Ruiz (St. Bernard’s Baseball), Cameron Saso (McKinleyville Baseball), and just about everybody on the Fortuna boys basketball team.
Player of the Year – Girls
Olivia Stone, Eureka Soccer
No local player dominated to the extent Stone did in the fall, leading the Loggers to their greatest season ever in the sport and an NCS title.
Her overwhelming influence on the team was matched only by her remarkable consistency.
Honorable Mentions: Kaleya Sanchez (Del Norte Girls Volleyball), Kaleya Sanchez (Del Norte Basketball)
Athlete Most Likely to Succeed
Cruz Montana, Eureka
The outgoing Eureka senior will take his game to Lewis and Clark College this fall and has all the tools (and the smarts) to be a very successful quarterback at the Division-III level.
Team Most Likely to Succeed
No team on the North Coast emphasizes a positive outlook better than the Loggers do under head coaches Katelyn Graeser and Sarah Fox, and no group of players will collectively be better prepared for the world and life ahead of them because of it.
Athlete to watch out for in 2019/20
St. Bernard’s Basketball
Thrap has already set himself apart as one of the greatest to ever play the game at the school, and he’s only going to get better, having been among the NCS leaders in several categories as a junior.
Honorable Mentions: Will Omey (St. Bernard’s Football), Cameron Saso (McKinleyville baseball), Nathaniel Spears (Eureka Track and Field), Merek Sears (Arcata Baseball), Miles Meynell (Eureka Football)
Best Thing About Covering Prep Sports on the North Coast …
Watching the support these athletes show for their rivals when it comes to the playoffs.
The isolation on the North Coast breeds a certain camaraderie among the sports teams here, and one thing I noticed this year is the number of athletes from other teams showing up to support their rivals in the playoffs.
It’s refreshing, encouraging and unique, as well as being reflective of the outstanding community support we have here for our local sports.
Athlete of the Year – Boys
Del Norte, Senior
Price was a star in multiple sports throughout his high school career, with outstanding seasons as a senior in football, basketball and track and field.
Pound for pound, no local athlete had a bigger impact across the board this past year than Price, who will play football at Western Oregon in the fall.
2 — Zac Claus (Fortuna), an MVP candidate in two sports.
3 — Conor Barres (Eureka), a standout soccer star and the fastest prep athlete on the North Coast who had a monstrous debut season in track.
4 — Lane Thrap (St. Bernard’s), a legitimate star in three sports and arguably the best all-around basketball player in the H-DNL.
5 — Adam Medeiros (Fortuna), the best wrestler in the area and and an NCS champion football player.
Team of the Year
No local high school team dominated at a higher level than the Loggers did this past year, making it all the way to the state semifinals with a second straight undefeated regular season.
It was a senior class for the ages, and a group that thrilled us all season long.
2 — Fortuna Boys Basketball, ranked top-two in state D-IV all season.
3 — McKinleyville Softball, historic treble winners.
4 — Fortuna Football, set a record for consecutive playoff wins for the H-DNL.
5 — Del Norte Girls Basketball and St. Bernard’s Girls Basketball, historic seasons for each.
And finally, the most important award of all …
Humboldt Sports’ Favorite Team of the Year
There are plenty of teams on the North Coast that look like they’re having a lot of fun, and plenty that have enjoyed a lot of success, but no team achieved the two together in such perfect harmony as the Panthers did.
I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as we enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves.
Only 62 days to go to fall sports, are you getting excited?