There’s no denying that 2020 was a year unlike any other. And while some will chose to forget the past 12 months because of the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there were memorable moments before sports was shuttered and some on a regional, national and international level.
Here are our most memorable stories of 2020 as we await word on whether sports will resume in 2021.
COVID-19 pandemic wipes out spring, fall sports
The biggest sports story of the year turned out to be that there were no sports – at least after mid-March. On the eve of the CIF state basketball finals, the sports world and the world in whole was first getting a glimpse of how much COVID-19 would play a part in our 2020 lives. Two days after the West Valley girls fell 57-48 to Branson, things in the sports world began to unravel. First, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID, then Northern California basketball power Sheldon was denied a chance to play for a NorCal title after its district shuttered activities. The Huskies were able to play their NorCal final game, but two days before teams would head to Golden 1 Center in Sacramento for the state finals, the CIF ended the basketball season.
Spring sports would soon follow as baseball, softball, track and field, boys golf and girls tennis were all shelved amid rising coronavirus numbers. And as spring flowed into summer, fall sports were hopeful of getting a chance to get back on the field. However, seasons were rescheduled and limited workouts with strict protocols were all football, volleyball and other sports were able to muster as the state Department of Public Health didn’t release return-to-play guidelines. The CIF came up with multiple plans, including starting football in January, but as of now, those plans remain tenuous.
West Valley football coach Grandell resigns amid program scandal
For the past 27 years, Grandell guided the Eagles program, winning three Northern Section CIF championships and nine league titles. But his long tenure ended amid allegations of hazing inside the program as he sits at No. 3 on the Northern Section’s all-time wins list for football coaches with 195. On Nov. 21, Grandell and his paid coaching staff announced their resignations, capping a tumultuous week in which the Anderson Union High School District met in closed session followed by an emotionally charged public comment session. Two days later, Grandell and staff were put on administrative leave, as the district and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department looked into hazing allegations inside the storied program. “I’m really broken-hearted with the situation. I hope we can get to the truth and people can start to mend from it,” Grandell told Shasta County Sports. “I’m sad for every parent, every player on every side.” The investigation is ongoing.
West Valley girls basketball team falls one game short of state finals berth
Like the Enterprise girls a year prior, the Eagles were within one game of playing for a state title. West Valley (26-9) combined a blend of youth and experience as sophomore Madalynn Bassett gave the Eagles a youthful scoring spark to compliment the tough-as-nail point presence of Maddie Steele. The Eagles’ lineup was rounded out with players like Jasee Heacock, Rose Matthews, Faith Cramer and Lexi Proscher who bought into coach Lenny Ehn’s system and ran through the Northern Athletic League with a 10-0 mark. A Division IV section title win over U-Prep led to a No. 1 seed in the NorCal Division V bracket thanks to the CIF’s competitive equity model. From there, the Eagles handled LeGrand, Portola and U-Prep (for a fourth time in 2020) to set up a 1 vs. 2 matchup with perennial NorCal power Branson. In the NorCal title game, the Eagles jumped to a 14-7 lead after one quarter and held a 29-27 edge at intermission. But the Bulls were fueled by a freshman and sophomore tandem that wore down the home team before ending the Eagles’ season in a 57-48 loss. Bassett and Steele were named to the All-Northern Section team while Bassett earned Shasta County Sports All-County MVP honors.
Foothill boys basketball team makes another deep NorCal run
For the third straight season, Bill Elliott had his Cougars’ squad playing into March in the state playoffs. Foothill (27-6) was a win from playing for the NorCal Division III title, but the 11th-seeded Cougars ran out of road magic in falling 55-50 to Carmel. It was the third straight lengthy road trip for Elliott’s crew as Foothill opened the NorCal bracket in Salinas with a 68-51 win over Palma and followed that two days later with a 67-58 victory over Sequoia (Redwood City). The Cougars headed back to the Central Coast two days after the Sequoia win, but the Padres fended off each Foothill run and sank 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch. In 2018-19, the Cougars won a pair of NorCal games before falling in a 69-63 double-overtime heart-breaker to state runner-up University (San Francisco). The year prior, the Cougars opened the NorCal round with a victory over Mission (S.F.) before falling in overtime to University. In 2019-20, the Cougars were led by point guard Josiah Palumbo, who grabbed All-Northern Section MVP and Shasta County Sports All-County MVP honors. In addition, Luke Lindsey was named to the All-Section and All-County teams, and Bekdoo Lewis and Brandon McCracken joined their teammates on the All-County squad.
Enterprise grad Green signs professional basketball contract in Georgia
The Enterprise graduate is living his dream to play professional basketball, hooping it up in Georgia with Tskhum-Abkhazeti. The two-time Northern Section MVP is second on the team with 12.4 points per game through 10 contests. He leads the team in assists and steals on the young season. Green was a force in high school, scoring 18 per night as a senior. After playing at Humboldt State, Green transferred to Montana State at Billings. He averaged 15.7 points as a senior in Montana.
Redding Christian girls have banner season
For the second straight season, Scott Alexander and his Lions girls team met Forest Lake Christian in the NorCal Division VI semifinals. And while the outcome didn’t go RC’s way in either season, the Lions and Alexander showed they could be a small-school power for years to come. Redding Christian (22-6) blended senior leadership infused with youthful contributions that led to some signature wins, including beating Division III Enterprise 49-46 and Division IV U-Prep 43-18 in successive nights at the Lady Hornet Classic before falling 52-46 to Willows and eventual Northern Section MVP Meghan Weinrich. Yes, Enterprise and U-Prep were both short-handed due to injuries, but the Lions gave the Honkers all they could handle battling for the tourney title. Redding Christian was 91-20 overall and 31-1 in league play during Sadie Alexander’s four-year varsity career, surpassing the 1,000-point mark late in the season. Post player Sammie Wunner also finished her career as part of the 1,000-point scoring club with 1,007 points in 104 career games to go with 766 rebounds — a 7.7 points and 7.4 assists per game career average. But the Lions got contributions across the board as Aleah Matos and Courtney Jones provided great guard skills and defense and freshman Bailey Matos came on as a go-to 3-point shooter as the Lions won 16 of their final 17 games.
Kingston, Kutsch shine as Pac-12 linemen
Power 5 conferences haven’t historically flocked to the North State looking to sign football players, so when a homegrown talent produces it’s a big deal. That’s why Jarrett Kingston and Kary Kutsch need to be celebrated, playing for Washington State and the University of Colorado, respectively.
Kingston, a redshirt sophomore, played left guard in four games for first-year coach Nick Rolovich and the 1-3 Cougars. The Cougars averaged 129 yards rushing and more than 250 yards passing behind quarterback Jayden de Laura. Kingston, an Anderson alumni, appeared in eight games in 2019 under the run-and-shoot offense of Mike Leach.
Kutsch and the Buffaloes finished an abbreviated season 4-2 following this week’s 55-23 Alamo Bowl loss to Texas. Kutsch missed games due to COVID, but when he was healthy, the Shasta High product showed why he’s among a handful of Colorado players who could be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.
U-Prep boys basketball win back-to-back section titles
In 2018-19, the U-Prep boys basketball team broke the seal, beating West Valley 53-42 for the school’s first section title. And despite losing three of their top scorers to graduation, the Panthers saw a handful of players step up to snag a 55-42 win over Pierce in the 2020 Northern Section Division IV finals. Tanner Stephens, who was injured late in the first title run, provided U-Prep a steady, go-to scorer all season averaging a team-high 13.7 points per night. The junior was complimented by seniors Logan Hawes (12 ppg) and Trevor Jones (11.3 ppg) and infused with fellow juniors Aiden Lipman and point guard Kevin Cox. The trio of Stephens, Lipman and Cox gives the Panthers a great base should we see a basketball season this year.
Wallace shines for Shasta College women’s basketball in freshman campaign
It was a tough season for Knights’ women’s coach Jerry Brown as his squad went 14-13 overall with a roster that featured one sophomore. One of the bright spots for the Knights was Jenna Wallace, a freshman from Foothill High School who led the Knights in scoring with 19.6 points per game, which ranked 11th in the state. She led the team in rebounds as well with a per game average of 9.6 and totaled 16 double-doubles on the year. She scored a season-high 32 points in a 91-71 loss to Redwoods and grabbed a season-best 19 rebounds in a 69-50 win over Cabrillo. Wallace was also named to the all-GVC freshman team.
Soccer has big season in Shasta County
The beautiful game made noise last season as the U-Prep girls won their fifth straight Northern Section title, while the Shasta boys and Anderson boys each won section crowns in their respective divisions.
During their five-year stretch of dominance, the Panthers are 113-10-5 overall.
Shasta, which finished the year 13-3 overall, won the section title with a 1-0 victory over PV on Braxton Fleming’s first-half header. The Wolves fell 2-1 to East Union in the NorCal playoffs as the home team scored the equalizer with less than 10 minutes remaining before scoring the golden goal in overtime.
Anderson’s magical season ended in the NorCal semis with a 5-3 loss to lower seed Hilmar. The Cubs went 24-2-1 overall.
West Valley’s Raby finishes ninth at 152 at state wrestling meet
West Valley High’s Rocky Raby finished tied for ninth place at 152 pounds at the CIF State Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Saturday.
Raby, a three-time Northern Section Masters champion, won his first three matches of the tournament to reach the quarterfinals. The seventh-seeded grappler from Cottonwood lost his only match Friday to fall to the consolation bracket needing one win to secure a medal after going 0-2 at state last year.
But Raby was pinned in 3:37 by Tye Monteiro of Garces, an unseeded wrestler and the Central Section #5 wrestler in the weight class. Monteiro made his way to an eighth-place finish through the consolation bracket, losing his first match and winning the next five.
Raby finishes the state tournament 3-2 overall with two pins — one in the first period and one in the second — and an 8-3 winning decision. In his three trips to state, Raby went 4-6 overall.