By Ray Hamill — McKinleyville seniors Connor Berg and Logan Maher are the latest H-DNL athletes to commit to play at College of the Redwoods after graduation, although both have taken very different routes to get there.
The talented multi-sport duo recently signed their letters of commitment to play football for the Corsairs, while a busy Maher will also play baseball.
And for each of them, the process began when new CR football coach Jason White visited the Panthers’ practice last season.
“Coach White showed up at practice one day and came and talked to us, and it seemed like he was very intuitive and knew what he was talking about,” Berg said. “And he showed up at some games and kept in contact with me.”
Maher was similarly impressed with White’s interest, as well as that of CR baseball coach Andrew Aiello, who happened to catch the multi-sport senior on the right day during this past baseball season.
“I had a pretty good game against Eureka and he was there,” Maher said. “And I got a text from him, and he asked what were my plans. And I told him I was going to play football at CR, and he asked if I wanted to play baseball too.”
Maher is expected to play a variety of roles for the Corsairs on the baseball field, including time as catcher, while he will play kicker for the CR football team, fulfilling a long-held dream of his.
He first became interested in kicking while attending Humboldt State games at the Redwood Bowl, although family tradition also has played a part.
His father Justin was a kicker at South Fork High School, while his grandfather Ray Maher was a kicker at CR and is a member of the Corsairs Hall of Fame.
“I used to go to games at Humboldt State with my father, and he would kick with me after the games,” Logan said.
The younger Maher would join the McKinleyville High football team as a sophomore and has attended kicking camps in Washington and Sacramento to develop his talents for the collegiate level.
He hopes one day to kick for a Division-I program and sees CR as the perfect stepping stone in that direction.
And the most important thing he has learned from his kicking experience?
“Definitely it’s a mental game,” he said. “You can’t get down on yourself if you miss a field goal. You can never get down on yourself.”
Maher has made a 47-yard field goal in a game and a 67-yarder in practice.
Berg, meanwhile, will play running back for the Corsairs, although he’ll have to wait a while.
The Mack senior tore his ACL in week four of the 2021 season, but was unaware of the severity of the injury and kept playing the remainder of the season, playing a pivotal role in leading the Panthers back to the playoffs for the first time in several years.
Since then he has undergone one surgery, with another scheduled, and is eying a full return to football in the fall of 2023.
“It’s been good, the recovery is going perfect,” said Berg, who believes the setback will make him stronger in the long run as he adapts to the collegiate life both athletically and academically.
For Berg, his sports journey really began when he moved to Humboldt County to live with his aunt and uncle after a spell of “getting in trouble,” as he described it, when he was a seventh grader living in Willits.
“I got arrested,” he said, “and expelled.”
It would be a turning point in his life, and after moving to Humboldt Berg was introduced to the world of sports and youth football, and that changed everything.
“It took off from there,” said Berg, who was a two-time all-league selection while playing for the Panthers. “It felt like football was something I was meant to do.”
His aunt Jessica and uncle Rusty played a pivotal role in that change.
“They completely turned my life around,” he said, adding that his aunt “has always been there for me.”
Both Maher and Berg are multi-sport athletes.
In addition to football, Berg wrestled in high school for three years — only missing his senior season because of the football injury — and also ran track for two seasons.
Maher, meanwhile, has been one of the busiest local high school athletes in recent years, remarkably competing in six different sports.
In addition to three years with the football team, he also has played soccer, basketball and baseball for four years, as well as competing in track and field and tennis.
It was his mother, Tiffany, who introduced him to tennis during the COVID shutdown.
The falls have been particularly busy for Maher who practiced daily with both the soccer and football teams, going back and forth from each.
But that’s a busy lifestyle he has embraced and one he feels will help prepare him to play multiple sports in college.
“I’ve loved sports since I don’t even remember,” he said. “So I’ve always wanted to try different sports and keep active throughout the year.”
Both Berg and Maher will also cherish their time in high school and some moments in particular.
“Being named Homecoming King is something I’ll remember,” Berg said. “That was like a moment where I felt like this is home.
“And it was great to go into a (football) team that had struggled and flip it around in a great direction. Going to the playoffs for the first time in five or six years, that’s something I’ll remember.”
Maher says he will remember his teammates more than anything.
“I’ll just remember how great a class it was to play with and to graduate with,” he said.
And both players are hoping to continue to develop as athletes and people during their time at CR.
“I just want to be the best I can be and keep on working and get better and better,” said Maher, who wants to major in Property Construction Management. “And just work as hard as I can for the team.”
Likewise with Berg, who will major in Police Science.
“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to give them all I’ve got,” he said, adding that “one of the reasons I want to play at CR is because I won’t just be playing with talent from Mack but also from schools around the whole county and beyond.”
Aiello is also excited about the opportunity of bringing Maher on board.
“He’s an athletic guy,” the coach said. “He’s a guy that can play different spots for us, and we think he’s got a lot of energy.”