By Ray Hamill — The Corsairs have said they are committed to having more local players on their team when football returns next year, and on Saturday they backed that commitment with a huge statement of intent.
New head coach Jason White, who was hired just six weeks ago, unveiled his first group of local recruits, with 19 players on campus to sign a letter of intent to play for the team in the fall of 2022.
“We’re excited about having them all,” White said after giving the players and some family members a tour of the campus. “These guys are going to be the foundation of our team.”
After the program was suspended last summer for budgetary reasons, the Corsairs reinstated the team earlier this year on the condition there would be a greater emphasis on academics and local recruitment.
Saturday’s group of recruits, which includes players from six of the nine local high school programs, is just the beginning, with a couple of South Fork players also expected to sign their letters this coming week.
White says he anticipates having as many as 40 local players on his roster when the team takes to the field for its first game next year.
And he believes that’s an important step in building the program.
“In the 10 years that I was here previously, every year that we were successful we had a solid base of local kids that were like starters for us, and you had a good mix between out-of-the-area and local kids,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to strive to do again.”
Many of the players say they felt CR was a good fit for them.
“I’m just trying to keep playing football and get an education,” Del Norte running back Levi Cox-Cooley said. “That’s the main goal. And get as far as I can with it, and this is a great start and a great opportunity.”
Jarnaghan wanted to play for the Corsairs last year before the team was suspended, and was quickly sold on the idea again when White came calling.
“Coach White’s super cool and I like his football philosophy and his style of play,” Jarnaghan said.
The list of new recruits includes several big names from the H-DNL and 12 of the 19 have been all-league selections or honorable mentions.
In addition to Cox-Cooley, who was the co-Offensive MVP of the Big 4 as a junior, Del Norte’s Tanner Forkner also committed to team.
Forkner was arguably the best player in the H-DNL this spring and a force for the Warriors on the offensive line and at linebacker.
“I think without a doubt, he was the leader of our team,” Del Norte head coach Nick White said. “He’s the ultimate kid you want on your team, and not just on the field. It’s his attitude, his leadership, his effort, his intelligence.
“Tanner, for me, it’s not even close, he was by far the best defensive player in the league.”
Running back Michael Germain, who enjoyed a standout spring with the Warriors, rounds out a talented trio of Del Norte players to sign their letters.
McKinleyville running backs Jayden Scher and Caleb Martinez also signed letters, as did Eureka linemen Andrew Morgan, Drew Jensen and Dylan Fales.
A trio of Ferndale Wildcats also signed their letters, and all of them should have an impact at the next level.
In addition to Lane Branstetter, who was one of the top linebackers in the area this past spring, Ferndale’s Caden Rocha (OL) and Javier Lopez (DB) will play for the Corsairs, along with the talented Fortuna duo of quarterback Max Hough and lineman Joey Quen, each of whom were among the all-league selections this year.
The six Hoopa players who signed up include outgoing seniors Larry Tracy (DB) and Sly Logan-Miguelena (OL), along with Jarnaghan, Milton Mabry (DL), Jasper Hostler (WR) and Ben Ray (OL/DL).
Many of Saturday’s recruits will be taking classes as early as this fall, and White says he has emphasized he wants all of them on campus by the spring in order to properly prepare for the first season.
For video highlights of Saturday’s big signings, see Strong local presence a big plus for Corsairs …