College of the Redwoods

Del Norte players shine as Corsairs get their first win

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The Del Norte connection is alive and well at College of the Redwoods.

The Corsairs got their first win of the season, 41-35, in overtime at West Hills Coalinga on Saturday afternoon, with a trio of Del Norte players playing a pivotal role.

Running back Levi Cox-Cooley had 200 yards of offense, while tight end Kaleb Price scored the winning touchdown in the extra period and linebacker Tanner Forkner had another big day on the defensive side of the ball.

All in all, it was an entertaining and back-and-forth showdown, with the Corsairs rallying from a 21-13 halftime deficit and then seeing a late lead slip away as the home team forced the overtime.

The Falcons had the first possession in overtime, but the CR defense held firm with the ever-dangerous Julian Garcia blocking an attempted field goal.

The Corsairs offense then took over and two plays later Price caught a 30-yard TD pass from quarterback Teagan Gaither.

This was the tight end’s third straight game with a TD catch.

“Our kids battled,” CR head coach Jason White said. “We were behind, and then we lost the lead a couple of times, and we never stopped battling. We had to make plays on both sides of the ball. Any win is a good win.”

It was the Corsairs’ most balanced performance of the young season and their best offensively, and Gaither appears more and more comfortable with each passing week.

The Washington native completed 15 of 28 passes for 175 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while also scoring on a QB sneak.

He got plenty of help from a receiving corps that also is looking better and better each week, as well as a monstrous performance by Cox-Cooley.

The 2021 Del Norte graduate finished with 181 yards on 26 carries and added two receptions for 19 yards.

Cox-Cooley scored on a 45-yard TD run to tie the game in the third quarter and gave his team the lead just seconds later on a two-point conversion run.

Gaither scored on a QB sneak to stretch the lead in the fourth quarter but the home team rallied to tie things up again with a TD and two-point conversion with three minutes remaining.

The Corsairs had the opportunity to win the game in regulation after driving deep into West Hills territory in the final seconds but they missed on a field goal attempt as time expired.

Several CR players had big afternoons.

Receiver Donte Hurt opened the scoring for the visitors on an 82-yard TD reception from Gaither in the first quarter.

Jayden Burns out of Ukiah also scored on a 32-yard TD reception in the second quarter and added a two-point reception in the third after receiver Damario Watson found the end zone on a 10-yard reverse.

Burns made three West Hills players miss on his TD reception, and in the words of White “he makes plays.”

Defensively, Forkner was outstanding once again and he has been a big bright spot for the team early in the season.

“Every week,” White said. “That guy is consistent every single week.”

Forkner finished with five tackles and three assists.

Defensive lineman Tyce Whigham added a sack, while Ferndale’s Lane Branstetter also is adjusting well to the collegiate game and had his best game yet.

The freshman cornerback finished with five tackles, including one for a loss, and two assists.

The Corsairs were without injured defensive tackle Sam Schauerman, another Del Norte player who has been key for the Corsairs early in the season.

“He was missed for sure,” White said. 

Marcus Urby picked up some of the slack in Schauerman’s absence and had a good game.

“Marcus and a bunch of other gays stepped up and we got the big stops when we needed to,” White said.

The Corsairs, who improved to 1-2, will return home to play Monterey Peninsula at the Redwood Bowl next Saturday.

West Hills dropped to 1-2.

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