The year that was in local sports and a handful of shoutouts

Isaak Gutierrez in action for New Mexico

By Ray Hamill — The 2020 year in sports will be remembered more for what we didn’t get to see than what we did.

For the most part, local sports have been shut down since March, with a few exceptions here and there, leaving local athletes and fans frustrated.

It remains a controversial decision, with many people believing there are safe ways to play the games and compete — as they have done in other states — and that the benefits of youth sports far outweigh the concerns.

Others, however, believe things should remain shut down while the pandemic continues to spike.

Either way, it’s the story that has dominated local sports for 2020, but it certainly wasn’t the only one.

In fact, for such a despair-filled year there were some notable highlights and moments we would have cherished in any given year.

Here then is a look back at some of the highlights from 2020, including a few worthy shoutouts …

H-DNL linemen shine 

It didn’t look like they would even get to play this fall, but three former H-DNL offensive linemen impressed at the Division-I collegiate level, while a fourth was drafted into the NFL.

Indeed the success of H-DNL linemen this year was one of the best stories of 2020.

Isaak Gutierrez transferred to the University of New Mexico and enjoyed a big sophomore campaign for the Lobos, while Bryce Petersen was a team leader for the Akron Zips and Kyle Spalding continued to soar at San Diego State and is considering his NFL options after an all-conference selection.

Spalding may yet follow in the footsteps of former Eureka Logger Jake Hanson, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft.

The Cosce brothers

Orion and Louis Cosce were the success story of the year for North Coast sports.

The former Hoopa High wrestlers, who were named our Sports People of the Year for 2020, broke onto the UFC scene in August and are likely to dominate local sports headlines for years to come.

Breakout star

If you’re looking for a feel-good sports story for 2020, look no further than St. Bernard’s junior Nick Dugan, who continues to soar as a baseball prospect.

According to, Dugan is now the top high school prospect in California for 2022 and the 10th overall in the entire nation.

The standout pitcher’s future appears as bright as any local baseball player, so here’s hoping local fans get to see him in action this coming spring.

No Humboldt Crabs 

The effects of COVID-19 were felt at the Arcata Ballpark as much as anywhere in sports on the North Coast, with the Humboldt Crabs forced to cancel their season for the first time since the iconic local club first took the field back in 1945.

I think it’s time to start a new streak.

Redwood Acres Raceway gets it right

If one local sports organization got it right in difficult circumstances this year, it was the Redwood Ares Raceway.

The season was cut in half because of the pandemic, but when they got the all-clear to hold restricted events without fans, the raceway officials did it safely and managed to give their fans and drivers an exciting campaign.

(So too did the Humboldt Outlaw Karts.)

With that being said, however, here’s hoping we see plenty of fans in the stands and a full season in 2021.

Ray Hamill/ – The Humboldt Eagles in action this past summer.

Boys teams of the year

We may have seen limited competition in 2020, but a number of teams stood out nonetheless and deserve special recognition.

None more so than the College of the Redwoods basketball team, which thrilled the North Coast community with an historic run.

Likewise with teams such as the Humboldt Eagles 19U American Legion baseball squad, which enjoyed an outstanding summer (mostly away from the North Coast) and the Del Norte High basketball and wrestling teams.

A special shoutout also for the Ferndale High basketball team, which won the Division-VI North Coast Section championship.

Ray Hamill/ – The Fortuna High girls basketball team

Girls teams of the year

Likewise there were a number of huge seasons for the local girls teams, including the CR basketball team which matched the men’s squad stride for stride, and the Eureka wrestling team, which has established itself as one of the premier prep wrestling programs in the entire NCS, boys or girls.

A special shoutout also to the Fortuna High girls, who had an outstanding season in basketball and won a first Big 5 title in almost 40 years.

Alex Cappa

The former Humboldt State star continues to make headlines at the NFL level, and received more fan votes for the Pro Bowl than any other NFC guard.

In what could have been a make-or-break year for the former Lumberjack, Cappa has established himself as a reliable starter on a Tampa Bay team that is expected to compete for the Super Bowl.

CR football suspended/coming back?

After announcing in the summer that the school’s football program had been suspended for budgetary reasons, CR followed that in December with news that the Corsairs are already looking into bringing the team back.

It came as a breath of fresh air for the local sports community in what has been a difficult year to say the least, especially with the news that there will be a bigger push for local recruits if the team is re-instated.

Dolcini continues to dominate

No local softball player has dominated a higher level in recent years than former Fortuna High pitcher Hailey Dolcini, who was named to the 2020 All-Mountain West Team in 2020.

Described as a rock in the circle by her coach, Dolcini continued to be the ace for the Fresno State Bulldogs, who were the No. 23 team in the nation.

Dolcini, who got the better of No. 3 Texas, finished the shortened season with a 10-1 record, including four shutouts, and an ERA of 1.51.

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