By Ray Hamill — When Geovanney Ramirez recently committed to play soccer at College of the Redwoods, he became the latest in a long, long line of former Fortuna players to take their game to the local community college.
It is, in fact, a very fruitful relationship that has benefitted both schools, with 18 players making the switch from the Huskies to the Corsairs in the past nine years alone.
For long-time Fortuna head coach Daniel Holmes, sending these players on to college is part of the plan, and the fact that he can do it so close to home is just extra special.
“I’m always selfish,” Holmes joked. “I want to see them play in our back yard.
“I think that being a teacher, I always want them to continue their education, and so if we can get these kids to play at the next level, for me the important thing is they get to continue their education.”
It is indeed a relationship that works both ways.
The players have the opportunity to keep playing at a high level while extending their education, with many of them going on to play at four-year schools and some even entering the coaching ranks.
Just as important, the Fortuna players give CR a solid foundation to build on, coming from a high school program that continues to dominate locally and has now won seven straight H-DNL titles and three of the past four NCS championships.
“It’s just a really great connection for us to build on, with the success they’ve all had in high school,” CR head coach Kyle Van Dyke said. “And it helps our program.”
It also brings plenty of local fans to the games and creates added interest in the local college team.
Pedro Cortes was one of Holmes’ first success stories at Fortuna.
Cortes was a senior in Holmes’ first year in charge of the team and the coach immediately saw some qualities in him.
“He loves the game, and he had some leadership skills,” Holmes said.
By chance, the following year the Huskies started a JV team and Holmes asked Cortes to coach it.
“I think he’ll tell you that triggered what he does,” Holmes said.
Cortes, who played two years at CR, would go on to coach the Corsairs, before becoming an assistant coach at Chico State and recently being hired as head coach of the Contra Costa College team.
Another former Husky who played at CR, Jamie Olea, also has been making a name for himself in the coaching ranks.
Jamie is one of three Olea brothers to play at CR, along with Brian and Eric, as well as cousin Alexis Olea, all of them starring for Fortuna first.
Francisco Calderon also went from Fortuna to CR, before transferring to Humboldt State and even serving as an assistant coach for the Lumberjacks.
Samuel Licona and Miguel Ramirez (Geovanney’s older brother) each also played at Fortuna and CR, before taking their talents to Chico State.
The list goes on.
Players like Diego Meraz, Luis Baltazar, Carlos Martinez and Mario and Estoban Osorio also made the leap from Fortuna to CR in recent years and have enjoyed tremendous success at the community college level.
So too have Julian Martinez, Miguel Martinez, Ernesto Reynosa and Aaron Mignon.
“I think we just have expectations,” Holmes said. “And I don’t think that’s just now. I think the kids that came before had expectations. We kind of set that standard in that first year.”
It’s something Holmes carried over from his five years in charge of the Eureka High program, when he also sent several players on to play at CR, providing the foundation for the new JC program with nine Eureka players in those early years.
Including current Eureka head coach Eddie Garcia.