By Ray Hamill — Of the approximately 150 H-DNL teams that competed this past year, no one set a higher standard on or off the field of competition than the Del Norte Warriors did in football.
And in the words of the legendary Tina Turner, they were “simply the best.”
They were the best team in the H-DNL in week one of the season and they were the best team when the final buzzer had sounded on another entertaining campaign.
A big shoutout to Mendes Supply, DelReka Distributing and The Stove Doctors in McKinleyville for helping to sponsor this year’s awards.
Driven by an accomplished and experienced senior class of very talented multi-sport standouts, the Warriors rolled over most of their opponents on the way to an 8-1 regular season record, with their wins coming by an average of 35.7 points.
They won all five games against H-DNL teams, four of them by 36 or more points, and they did all of this while playing backups for much of the second half in just about every game.
More than that, it was the manner in which they carried themselves that epitomized the way a team should act.
In his four years in charge of the program, head coach Nick White built a powerhouse program and quickly established a winning team culture that most teams can only dream of.
This success is about more than just the obvious football talent in the county, which does feature a very strong youth program.
For the high school team, it really all begins with the seniors setting the example in the offseason and ensuring the younger players buy into that, and they then go on to follow that lead when they’re seniors.
After being denied a deserved home playoff game and instead having to travel to the Bay Area for the opening round, they didn’t complain but simply went about their business and came away with a statement 50-14 win over Tennyson, a victory that sent a loud message to the North Coast Section.
Simply put, no other H-DNL team could match the Warriors in 2022/23.
On or off the field.
Eureka Girls Soccer
Two teams did come close.
The Eureka girls soccer team was almost as impressive on the way to an unbeaten 15-0-2 season that saw the Loggers clinch Big 4 and NCS championships.
Nobody really came close to matching the Eureka girls, who opened league play with seven straight shutouts and held 10 of their 13 league opponents scoreless.
Head coach Tommy Learmouth has plenty of talent at his disposal, but he has them playing as a cohesive unit and playing smart soccer.
The Fortuna baseball team also had a year to remember.
Under the guidance of head coach Max Betts, the Huskies ended a Big 5 championship drought that dated all the way back to 1975 and they followed that with a first-ever Charlie Lakin Tournament championship.
And the way in which they achieved all of that was special.
They certainly didn’t dominate in the way Eureka girls soccer and Del Norte football did, but they made up for that with excitement, winning the breakthrough league title with a walk-off home run on the final at-bat in league play.
It was the sort of accomplishment that will go down in the annals of Fortuna sports as one of the Huskies’ greatest moments ever.