By Ray Hamill — Former Eureka Logger Isaak Gutierrez will play his first home game for the New Mexico Lobos this week, as several local players get set to kick off the new college football season all around the West Coast.
Gutierrez, a 2019 Eureka graduate, transferred to New Mexico in January of 2020 after playing his freshman year at Butte College.
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound offensive lineman, who started all seven games for the Lobos last fall, will start again at right guard but has also taken snaps during the preseason at center.
The Lobos, who were 2-5 last year and had to play all of their games on the road because of COVID protocols, return four of their five starting offensive linemen.
They begin the new season at home to Houston Baptist at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and the game will be streamed live through the university’s athletic department website.
On Saturday, meanwhile, numerous former H-DNL players will kick off their seasons at the JC level.
At Santa Rosa JC, a pair of former St. Bernard’s players will feature for the Bear Cubs this season, along with a former Eureka standout.
Micha Fontenot, who graduated from SB in 2018, and Lane Thrap, who graduated from the school in 2020, will both play receiver for Santa Rosa, which is ranked No. 16 in the state and will open at home against No. 1 San Mateo on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Former Eureka Logger Trevor Bell, also will play halfback for the highly-ranked Bear Cubs this fall, while former Fortuna standout Branson Gans will red-shirt with the team.
Former Del Norte quarterback OJ Calleja will also be in action this weekend, as College of the Siskiyous kicks off the new campaign at home to Diablo Valley on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Calleja is coming off an impressive three-game spring season for Siskiyous, where he completed 39-of-72 passes for 548 yards and five TDs, with just one interception.
His high school teammate, Nick Freeman, is also back for another season with the Eagles and will play DB.
At Butte, meanwhile, Tyce Mullins will line out at linebacker this season for the Roadrunners.
Mullins, who enjoyed a phenomenal career on the Eureka Loggers defense, red-shirted in 2019 with the Roadrunners, who did not play last season because of the pandemic.
Joining Mullins on the Butte roster this fall is another former H-DNL standout, Jack Baca of Arcata.
Baca will play tight end for the highly-touted program, which opens the season on Saturday at College of the Sequoias at 1 p.m.
Fortuna’s Daeden Taylor, meanwhile, is back with the Feather River Golden Eagles, who also kick off their season on Saturday, at Gavilan at 1 p.m.
Several local players are also expected to feature this fall for Shasta, with Eureka’s Josiah Graham and Antorious Bell and Del Norte’s Anthony Slayton all playing in the spring for the Knights.
The Knights have a bye this week before opening the season at home to San Joaquin Delta the following weekend.
There are several other players to keep an eye in the college ranks in the coming weeks, including former St. Bernard’s quarterback Jack Rice.
The 2017 SB graduate transferred to College of Idaho this year after stints at Sac State and Azusa Pacific, and won a three-player battle in preseason for the starting QB job.
Rice threw for three touchdowns in his debut with the Coyotes last week, as they won 42-14 at MSU-Northern, and he became just the 10th player in program history to throw for three TDs in a game.
He is expected to get his second straight start for the NAIA team this week at home to Rocky Mountain on Saturday at 1 p.m.
His younger brother, Maximus Rice, is playing this fall at D-II Colorado Mesa, which opens the season at William Jewell College on Thursday at 5 p.m.
The coaches have been keeping their options open with Maximus Rice, who has seen time in training camp on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Maximus Rice graduated from Arcata High in 2020.
At Lewis & Clark, meanwhile, former Eureka Logger, Cruz Montana, could be in line to start this fall.
The D-III Pioneers kick off the season on Sept. 11 at Claremont M-S, and the coaches are expected to name the starting QB this week.
But Montana, who has impressed his coaches at the Oregon school since joining them in the fall of 2019, has been taking most of the reps with the first team during training camp.
Another two local players to keep an eye on this fall are Del Norte’s Ethan Price and Eureka’s Miles Meynell.
Price is a red-shirt freshman linebacker at Western Oregon, which opens the new season on Thursday night at Colorado School of Mines.
Meynell, meanwhile, is a red-shirt freshman offensive lineman at Division-I UC Davis — which opens the season at Tulsa on Thursday night — but was not named on the traveling roster for the opener.
If you know of any other local players now playing at the collegiate level, email us at email@example.com to let us know.