Team of the Year finalists show a lot of resilience

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — After another hugely exciting school year in sports, it has been a challenge narrowing down roughly 150 H-DNL teams to just 10 finalists for our 2023 Humboldt Sports High School Team of the Year.

Many of them stood out not just for their achievements in 2022/23 but also the manner in which they won.

Some were chosen for the way they dominated from the start to the end of their seasons, while others are included because of how they built momentum on their way to dramatic finishes, while others still are on the list because of their perseverance through adversity and the way they overcame their challenges.

Just as impressively, some are included after ending decades-old championship droughts and will go down in school history for what they accomplished.

All in all, it was a highly entertaining year for local fans thanks to all of them.

The list of 10 finalists includes teams from seven different H-DNL schools and six different sports.

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.

This is the final category of finalists and we will be announcing all the winners over the next few days.

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

Submitted photo

Arcata Baseball

No team had a better sense of timing, both in games and over the course of the season, as the Tigers peaked down the stretch on their way to a thrilling North Coast Section championship.

Arcata Tennis

I’ll include the Tigers boys and girls teams here because both continued to dominate the rest of the H-DNL in 2022/23 with undefeated campaigns for each.

Del Norte Football

No other football team in the H-DNL came close to matching the Warriors, who established one of the best team cultures in league under the guidance of head coach Nick White and enjoyed another impressive playoff run in 2022.

Del Norte Wrestling

Just like they have on the football field in recent years, the Warriors have also been setting the standard on the wrestling mats, and that continued to be the case this year, both in the H-DNL and NCS.

Eureka Girls Basketball

Under the guidance of head coach Cliff Napoleon, the Loggers secured a Big 5 and Dick Niclai championship double and were clearly the best team in the area this past winter.

Eureka Girls Soccer

Yes they play in a watered down version of the NCS, but head coach Tommy Learmouth and the undefeated Eureka girls thoroughly dominated locally on the way to another double-championship campaign. 

Ferndale Girls Basketball

They didn’t win a league title, but the resilient and shorthanded Wildcats overcame more adversity than any other team on an impressive playoff run after their coach and some key players left just as the postseason began. 

Fortuna Baseball

The Huskies not only won a first league title since the mid 70s and a first-ever Charlie Lakin championship, but they did so in thrilling fashion with Cole Ayala hitting a walk-off home run to secure the league title on the final at-bat of the Big 5.

McKinleyville Football

The underdog Panthers also ended a decades-old championship drought when they upset local predictions to win a first league title since 1990, and they added a first playoff win in eight years.

St. Bernard’s Baseball

A young Crusaders team came together much quicker than anticipated when head coach Matt Tomlin guided them to a league and Section double championship.

Honorable Mentions

Arcata Boys Basketball, Arcata Boys Soccer, Del Norte Girls Soccer, Del Norte Softball, Eureka Track and Field, Hoopa Softball, McKinleyville Boys Basketball, South Fork Boys Basketball, St. Bernard’s Girls Soccer.

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