By Ray Hamill — With less than three months to go before we see college football return to the North Coast for the first time in three years, excitement is building at College of the Redwoods.
Last week, the Corsairs officially added three more recruits when outgoing Eureka High seniors Kayro Jimenez, Carlos Duenas and Max Tapuulaaia all signed their letters of commitment to play for the team.
All three said one of the main reasons they choose CR is because of its closeness and also because head coach Jason White asked them to come join the team.
“One of the reasons I choose CR is to be close to my family,” Tapuulaaia said. “And coach White offered me a spot and said he can help me get better and take the next step to play at a higher level. I feel he can help me get better and better.”
Duenas was considering his options when White approached him about playing for the local community college.
“I was looking around and then coach White came up to me and told me about CR and how he wanted me to go there,” he said. “And I had played for him before.”
All three new recruits have been practicing with their new CR teammates on campus this spring, particularly Jimenez and Tapuulaaia.
And that’s something that should benefit them this fall.
“Being at spring football and in the weight room, that is going to help make that transition easier,” White said.
Jimenez says he enjoyed the opportunity to bond with his new CR teammates, which included a group of seven current or former Eureka High players.
“It was cool,” he said. “It was totally different, but I also had a relationship with a lot of these players that I went to high school with.”
Tapuulaaia will play linebacker for the Corsairs, while Duenas will play on the offensive line and Jimenez will line up at slot receiver.
All three are expected to compete for plenty of playing time right off the bat on a roster that will feature almost all freshmen.
“The first thing you notice about Carlos is that he has really good size,” White said of the 6-2, 300-pound Loggers senior. “And he moves well, and he understands the game.
“He’s really strong in the weight room and he’s a guy that is definitely going to compete up front for us.”
Tapuulaaia began playing football in the fourth grade while growing up on American Samoa, before moving to Eureka eight years ago.
According to White, he was just coming into his own as a dominant player when he broke his leg against Fortuna last season, and the coach expects him to pick up just where he left off this fall.
“In his senior year, you were starting to see him really starting to blossom as a good player,” White said. “That was when I started to see him as a dynamic player. He’s got a lot of room to grow. He hasn’t reached his peak yet.”
Tapuulaaia also brings a lot of positive energy to the team.
“He’s just a fun loving kid who plays football every day at lunch,” White said.
Jimenez, meanwhile, will switch from playing mostly running back in high school to slot receiver, and it’s a position both he and the coach feel suits him.
“We’re going to be more of a passing team this year,” he said. “I like both (positions). I feel like I have vision down field, so I feel I can play both.”
White has seen immediate improvement from Jimenez.
“There’s a bit of a learning curve for him, but he’s learning plays,” the CR coach said. “He catches the ball pretty well and he’s become a better route runner.”
Jimenez also brings a winning tradition to the team, having enjoyed plenty of success on his football journey, including three youth football championships with the Knights and an undefeated spring 2021 season with the Loggers.
And he says he’ll remember the good times he had with his teammates as he gets set to graduate high school.
“I’ll remember a lot of the road trips,” he said. “It was fun. We did a lot of talking and joking, and I feel the team got close.”
Duenas, who only started playing football in his sophomore year at Eureka High, also will remember a lot of good times with his Eureka teammates.
“The experience was really challenging,” he said of beginning football late. “I didn’t know much at first, but it was really fun.”
Tapuulaaia too says he will remember the people he met along the way.
“Just meeting great people and getting to know them,” he said.
All three are also excited about the next chapter in their careers and determined to make the most of it.
“I just want to get better and make new friends,” said Tapuulaaia, who plans on majoring in Kinesiology.
“I’m excited about bonding with my teammates and making new friends,” said Duenas, who is undecided on what he will major in just yet. “My goal is to get stronger and faster and get on the O line.”
Jimenez, who wants to attend the police academy at CR, is looking forward to helping re-establish Corsairs football.
“It will be a good experience,” he said. “(My goals are) just to win a lot of games and put us back on the map. I feel like since football is opening back up it’s going to be great for people to go out on a Saturday and see some games.”