Community interest building ahead of CR season opener

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – CR’s Mason Priddy is back to back to anchor the secondary this fall after an outstanding freshman season a year ago.

By Ray Hamill — The buzz surrounding College of the Redwoods football has been building for a while, with high expectations for the team this fall after an impressive return to action a year ago.

After a two-year break, the Corsairs returned with a bang in 2022 and a roster made up mostly of freshmen went on a seven-game winning streak on the way to a 7-4 record and hosting a bowl game for the first time this millennium.

And with most of the players from that team back in 2023 with a year of experience under their belts, coupled with some notable improvements on the offensive line, there’s every reason to believe it will be another good season as we get set for the opening game against Merced College at the Redwood Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Jason White, who has done an outstanding job making the program relevant again, says he could feel the buzz from the community at this summer’s CR sports dinner and auction.

He also says his team is ready to go after a long summer of preparation.

“We’re as ready to go as we’re going to be,” he said. “We’re tired of practicing against each other. We’re ready to play.”

Among the most notable returners are quarterback Max Hough, who was very impressive after taking over as the starter midway through last season and completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,281 yards, 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.

Also back are running backs Emmanuel Igbonogwam and Levi Cox-Cooley, each of whom impressed as freshmen a year ago.

Arcata’s Carson Tucker will start at slot receiver, with Donte Hurt and Anthony Aguirre starting at wide receiver and Jedon Janneh at tight end.

The receiving corps is expected to be one of this team’s strengths, although returning all-region receiver Jaydan Burns of Ukiah will miss the season opener while he recovers from a hamstring injury.

The offensive line, however, will look very different from a year ago, with Fortuna’s Joey Quen, who also plays baseball for CR, the only returner at right tackle.

Ezra Muriithi will start at right, alongside center Adam Symonds, left guard Michael Frease and left tackle Cale Kuska.

Levi Cox-Cooley is back at running back for the Corsairs.

The unit, however, is expected to be an upgrade from 2022 and certainly will be bigger.

On the defensive side of the ball, a pair of local linebackers — Del Norte’s Tanner Forker and former Eureka Logger Chase Steubing — are back to anchor the linebacker corps.

Another Del Norte graduate, freshman Bryson Price, will also start at defensive tackle alongside freshman Moe Leiataua from Kentwood, Washington.

Nevada native Tyse Whigham is back at defensive end after an impressive freshman season, and will play opposite freshman Reese Hare from Tigard, Ore.

Another newcomer, Logan Malinowski from Bend, Ore., rounds out the starting linebackers while four starters return in the defensive backfield, including corners Mason Priddy and Lane Branstetter, the latter a former Ferndale Wildcat.

Max Hough

Sophomores Jack Hartman and Gabe Ward will start at the safety positions.

“Defensively we have a lot of sophomores at every position,” White said.

As for Merced, White admits it’s difficult to know what to expect in a season opener, with little or no game film of their opponents to study.

“We’ve heard Merced is pretty loaded,” he said, before adding with a chuckle, “We expect to start (the season) out with a bang.”

Saturday’s game kicks off at 1 p.m. and the first 100 fans through the gates will get a free CR rally towel.

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