Coach of the Year candidates exceed expectations 

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — It’s almost time to name the 2023 Humboldt Sports High School Coach of the Year and like with our other end-of-year award categories there is no shortage of worthy candidates.

And there’s no shortage of sports these dedicated individuals have impacted either.

In fact, the list of nine finalists includes coaches from football, golf, basketball, baseball, track and field, softball and wrestling, with more than one of them coaching multiple sports and succeeding in all of them.

There are also eight schools represented on the list.

Two of our finalists led their teams to championships that ended decades-old droughts, while others oversaw teams that stepped up their game at the business end of the season and got better as the campaign progressed, a sure sign a coach is doing their job.

It’s also important to remember, as any good head coach will acknowledge, none of these coaches can succeed without the help of a good staff of assistants and program support, and they won’t go far without those.

Interestingly, six of the eight head coaches on the list of finalists also won league titles with their teams a year ago.

A big shoutout to Mendes Supply, DelReka Distributing and The Stove Doctors in McKinleyville for helping to sponsor this year’s awards and pay for the trophies.

Thanks to their generosity all of our award winners this year — including Big 5 girls and boys athletes of the year, Little 4 boys and girls athletes of the year, and H-DNL coach of the year and team of the year — will receive a trophy or plaque to commemorate their achievements.

We’ll be concluding the category finalists shortly, and we will begin announcing the winners in all six categories after that.

Here then are our finalists for the 2023 Humboldt Sports High School Coach of the Year.

Fel Barlow

McKinleyville Football

Fel Barlow has quickly turned around the fortunes of McKinleyville football in just two years in charge.

This year he not only led the Panthers to a first league title since 1990, but he also guided them to a first playoff win in eight years.

It’s been an impressive start to his high school head coaching career.

Max Betts

Fortuna Baseball

And speaking of ending a long championship drought, Betts has had an immediate impact on a Fortuna program that had not won a championship since the mid 70s.

He not only guided the Huskies to a first-ever Big 5 and Charlie Lakin championship double, but his players came to the ball park every day and played with a passion and effervescence that spoke volumes of the team culture.

Ryan Colegrove

Hoopa Softball

Colegrove continues to work her magic at a Hoopa program that consistently challenges in the H-DNL and the NCS.

This spring, Colegrove and her players clinched a fourth straight league title and had another impressive playoff run despite being moved up to Division 4 and forced to play schools twice the size of Hoopa.

Dan Gallardo

Eureka Track and Field

Gallardo is the throwers coach for the Loggers who also also works closely with some of the McKinleyville athletes, and he guided the H-DNL contingent to arguably the greatest season ever for local throwers.

Thanks to Gallardo, the H-DNL had two NCS champions who placed in the top-10 at state (Jamin Guilbert and Derek Ray) as well as two more who were among the NCS leaders all spring (Joseph Gonzalez and Kalyssa Claros).

Troy Ghisetti

Arcata Girls Golf and Baseball

The legendary local baseball coach may have had his best year yet on the sidelines.

He followed another league championship in girls golf with a thrilling run to a third North Coast Section baseball championship in just six postseasons.

His players were playing their best ball of the year and with a huge belief in themselves down the stretch, and that’s the sign of a good coach.

Taylor Morrow

South Fork Boys Basketball

Morrow has done a phenomenal job in Miranda.

Last year he guided the Cubs to a first league title in three decades and he followed that with a second straight championship in 2023.

He has plenty of talent at South Fork, but he’s consistently getting the best out of them and that’s also the sign of a very good coach.

Clinton Schaad

Del Norte Wrestling

Schaad also has plenty of talent at his disposal thanks to one of the strongest youth programs in all of Northern California, but his influence on a dominating Del Norte High School team should not be overlooked.

His teams are consistently the best in the H-DNL, and under his guidance the Warriors have become a force in the NCS.

Matt Tomlin

St. Bernard’s Football, Girls Basketball and Baseball

No local coach has a bigger impact on the H-DNL than Tomlin, and his teams are always among the best in whatever sport he coaches.

Tomlin also is coming off one of his most impressive years yet, with both the girls basketball and baseball teams exceeding expectations.

Like a fine wine, as they say …

Nick White

Del Norte Football

In just a few years White has become one of the best football coaches in the NCS after building a powerhouse program in Crescent City that no team in the H-DNL could match this year.

He stepped down after another remarkable playoff season that included a huge statement win at Tennyson, but what he achieved with the Warriors during his time in charge is very impressive.

1 reply »

  1. My vote would go to one of the greatest coaches in the H-DN and NCS. Coach Ghisetti, AHS Girls Golf & AHS Baseball. He’s built and maintained some of the most successful programs on the North Coast for decades!

Leave a Reply