By Ray Hamill — We continue to take a look back at the 2019/20 local high school sports year in Part II of our three-part series, while handing out several more awards.
In this installment, we name our Coaches of the Year and our Boys Defensive Team of the Year, while also taking a look back at the most entertaining games of the year.
In addition we name our Girls Ironman Award winner.
It should be noted that only multiple-sport standouts were considered for our athlete of the year awards, and all honors are based only on the sports that were played this year.
For more on our end-of-year awards, check out Prep athletes of the year and other awards, Part I …
The awards will conclude with Part III later this weekend.
Game of the Year
In what was a thrilling year on many fronts, there were five games that stood out above all others.
1 — Arcata’s 2-1 victory over Eureka in the NCS girls soccer semifinal.
This gets our vote as the game of the year after Bailey Cherms netted a fantastic winner seven minutes into overtime.
What separates this game from the others this year is how superbly both teams played from start to finish and the incredible effort every single player left out on the field.
A memorable night for local soccer.
2 — The girls’ Dick Niclai championship. In a thrilling finish, Eureka battled back in the final minute to prevail over Fortuna.
3 — The Fortuna boys NCS championship win in soccer. A fantastic final was decided on a thrilling penalty shootout.
4 — Del Norte’s dramatic win at Arcata in boys basketball. The Big 5 decider went down to the final seconds.
5 — Ferndale’s Milk Can win over Fortuna. Another epic battle between these two rivals.
Most Successful School in H-DNL Competition
And the award goes to … Arcata, which won four of the 16 H-DNL titles handed out this past year, taking home team pennants in volleyball, girls cross country, girls tennis and girls golf.
Fortuna, Del Norte and St. Bernard’s each won three H-DNL team titles, with Eureka taking two and Ferndale one.
Eight league titles were never handed out after the spring shutdown.
South Fork also won an NCL-II title in eight-person football.
This category is for the most successful school within H-DNL play. Later on, we will name our Sports School of the Year.
Defensive Team of the Year (Boys)
Del Norte Football
The Warriors played old-school football on their way to an NCS championship and a state bowl appearance, grinding down their opponents with a relentless running game and hard-nosed physical defense.
A senior-heavy team was unstoppable for much of the season and that was in large part because of their brilliant defense.
Most Tenacious Athlete
This is one of my favorite awards because while talent is limited, effort and determination aren’t.
And in the games I saw this past year no one was as tenacious as Eureka junior Bella Vigil, especially on the basketball court.
Younger athletes — and older ones too — can learn a lot from watching this girl play.
An honorable mention here goes to her teammate Keylei Carroll.
COACHES OF THE YEAR
This was a tough one, it really was, and that’s why I’m naming co-coaches of the year, with Del Norte’s Nick White and St. Bernard’s Matt Tomlin both leading their respective teams to a state championship appearance in football.
As each would be quick to point out, their assistant coaches all deserve a lot of credit as well.
And they certainly weren’t the only coaches to impress this past year.
3 — Kathleen Lynch, Fortuna Girls Soccer
4 — Marc Slayton, Del Norte Boys Basketball
5 — Scott Betts, Fortuna Girls Basketball
6 — Daniel Holmes, Fortuna Boys Soccer
7 — Steve Thrap, St. Bernard’s Boys Basketball
8 — Dan Albee, Ferndale Boys Basketball
9 — Laurie Griffith, Arcata Volleyball
10 — Clinton Schaad, Del Norte Boys Wrestling
Honorable Mentions — Doug Oliveira (Arcata Girls Basketball), Cecil Wilson (Eureka Girls Wrestling), James Washington (Arcata Cross Country), Michael Harvey (Eureka Girls Basketball), Scott Pesch (Eureka Cross Country), Clint McClurg (Ferndale Football), Dan Johnson and Phil Rouse (St. Bernard’s Girls Soccer), and Mark Gardner (St. Bernard’s Girls Basketball)
Most Dominating Individual
There were a number of dominating individual seasons this year in the H-DNL, but no one out-distanced the competition — literally — better than Arcata freshman cross country runner Ai-Lan McGoldrick, who was simply sensational all season long.
An honorable mention here for Arcata’s Avary Henry, who won the H-DNL golf championship this year, as well as wrestlers Danika Scott (Del Norte), Skyler Moore (Del Norte) and Aracely Rendon-Gomez (Eureka).
Comeback Team of the Year
No team showed more poise with their backs to the wall this year than the McKinleyville girls did in basketball.
With their season all but done going into the final two weeks, the Panthers got hot just when they absolutely needed to and rattled off several wins to sneak into both the NCS and Dick Niclai playoffs.
Clutch Performance of the Year
St. Bernard’s senior Marayah Tomlinson scored all three goals in a dramatic NCS soccer championship game on the road against top seed Technology.
Tomlinson netted twice in the second half to lead the Crusaders back from a 2-1 halftime deficit.
And that earns her our Clutch Performance of the Year award.
Ironman Award (Girls)
Rendon-Gomez closed out a stellar prep wrestling career at Eureka High by placing sixth at the state championships.
The Loggers’ star has led the way in recent years on a surging Eureka team, also placing seventh at state as a junior.
She will now take her talents to Eastern Oregon University after receiving a scholarship to wrestle for the NAIA school.
And that’s it for Part II of our look back at the year in local prep sports. We will round our end-of-year awards in Part III, including naming our Boys Athlete of the Year, our Teams of the Year and our Sports School of the Year.