By Ray Hamill — The new coach has been making his presence felt.
With football set to return to College of the Redwoods this coming fall, Jason White is filling out his roster and doing so with a foundation of solid local players, including five Hoopa players who committed to play for the Corsairs on Tuesday, as well as a couple of Del Norte standouts who signed their letters of intent last week.
“The physicality that the H-DNL brings, that’s what we want our identity to be at College of the Redwoods,” he said. “So getting these kids is important.”
Hoopa’s AJ Perez, Talon Borden, Everett “Bronc” Colegrove, James Hernandez and Gavyn Albers all signed their letters at a ceremony at the high school on Tuesday, and they are following in the footsteps of recent Hoopa graduates Carlos Aguilar, Sonny Jarnaghan and Weyk-Seyr’ Hutchinson, each of whom is among the 30 players practicing together on campus this month, 25 of whom are H-DNL graduates.
The squad won’t play any games until the fall, with the schedule set to be released in the coming weeks, but they are participating in football class and they held their first practice without pads on Wednesday.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said White. “It’s nice to be with a group of guys who are really chomping at the bit. They are really raring to go.”
The list of recent recruits also includes Sam Schauerman and Konner Price from Del Norte, who will join fellow Warriors Tanner Forkner, Kaleb Price and Levi Cox Cooley, who each committed to the team last year.
South Fork’s Zech and Caleb Wilks have also committed their future to the program and White is expecting a number of other H-DNL seniors from Fortuna, Arcata and Eureka to commit in the coming weeks.
The reason many of these players are opting to play for CR is because of White’s recruiting strategy, and the new coach was busy and visible at H-DNL games all season long during the fall.
“I had no idea what I was going to do after high school,” Hoopa’s Albers said. “And then coach (White) calls me and said ‘hey, do you want to play at CR?’, and I said ‘yeah.’”
All five Hoopa players traveled to the CR campus for an official visit late last season before making their decisions, and they all left impressed with what they saw and with White’s vision for the program, which was reinstated early last year after being suspended in the summer of 2020.
“(Coach White) talked about the really important things and how he would also help us get an education first,” Hernandez said.
White has said that good character is important in the type of player he wants to recruit to the school, but he also likes a lot of the physical traits the Hoopa players have shown.
“Hoopa kids are all tough,” he said. “They’re scrappy and they get after it, and they’re more athletic than people realize.”
Colegrove will play along the offensive line and is expected to have a big impact.
“He’s a solid kid that brings some size to the table,” White said.
Albers, who will play defensive back, says he expects all of his Hoopa teammates to do well at the next level.
“I honestly think they’ll fit right in,” he said. “They’re all good at what they do, and it’s going to be fun playing with them.”
Hernandez will play at defensive end, while Perez and Borden will also play on the defensive side of the ball and will likely see time in the defensive backfield or at linebacker.