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U-Prep selects Dustin Fortenberry to succeed Darren Trueblood as head football coach

Dustin Fortenberry takes over the U-Prep football program following the death of his friend and mentor. The 36-year-old Fortenberry played for and coached with Trueblood and becomes U-Preps fifth head coach since the program's 2008 inception. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)

Dustin Fortenberry played for Darren Trueblood, he coached with him and now the 36-year-old will succeed the U-Prep football coach who died last week after a cancer battle.

The school announced the move on Tuesday afternoon.

“Ultimately, Coach Trueblood was the most impactful person in my life outside of my dad – he’s been there for me from freshman year of high school to now,” Fortenberry said Tuesday after the announcement. “It doesn’t seem real because I miss my friend and mentor.”

He said even before Trueblood’s battle with lung cancer, that it was the wish for Fortenberry to be his eventual successor.

“We’ve talked with his family and it’s what coach would’ve wanted,” Fortenberry. “I’m focused on making him proud.”

Fortenberry played football and baseball at Enterprise from 1999-2001 and Trueblood was his junior varsity baseball coach. Additionally, Trueblood was the Hornets’ varsity offensive coordinator under then-coach Clay Erro, where Fortenberry played guard alongside future NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan. Fortenberry becomes the Panthers’ fifth coach since the program’s 2008 inception.

He played football at Shasta College from 2003-05 before moving to play at Azusa Pacific from 2006-08. He was a grad assistant at the now-defunct program in 2009.

“He watched me play at Shasta College and was down at Azusa and saw me play, ironically, against JC (Hunsaker, who played at Southern Oregon University),” Fortenberry said. “We talked weekly and he was instrumental in getting me hired in the district.”

Fortenberry was Burney’s defensive coordinator for two seasons (2011-2013) under Clint McClurg before returning to Enterprise as the JV football coach and a varsity assistant in Trueblood’s last three seasons from 2014-16. He also coached varsity baseball during that time. He teaches government at Enterprise.

Fortenberry deflected some of the spotlight of the hiring, saying he was following Trueblood’s lead in proclaiming “it’s all of us together.” He said Taylor Angley will be the offensive coordinator, while Scott Lee will handle defensive duties. Matt Williams will coach the junior varsity team.

U-Prep’s Dustin Fortenberry (left) is smiling next to former head coach and late Darren Trueblood (center) and his son Zack during a September 2019 home game. (FILE — Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)

And while there remains a heavy heart over Trueblood’s passing, Fortenberry said the staff has met with players who seem anxious to get back to the field.

“I think Taylor helped them out a lot yesterday when he told them ‘It’s OK to be excited about playing football,’ ” Fortenberry said. “We have to move forward and it’s normal to want to get back out there.

“I don’t know when I’ll stop grieving coach.”

U-Prep Shelle Peterson said in a release “Coach Fortenberry is well positioned to sustain the positive momentum of the Panther football program. He is transitioning under challenging circumstances and will provide the leadership necessary to move the program forward.”

The Panthers were 8-3 last season, the best year in the program’s 12-year existence. U-Prep is 48-70 since beginning football in 2008.

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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