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A year of sporting excitement in Colusa County
The year 2013 has come and gone, but not before providing Colusa County sports fans with a fair share of memorable moments.
What follows is a recap of some of the most memorable moments from the area. While space does not allow for any more highlights, all of the excitement generated during 2013 bodes well for what Colusa County fans can expect to see more of in 2014.
Baseball thrives among the rice fields
Baseball made a resurgence across Colusa County in 2013 as two high schools claimed Northern Section championships and several players continued their careers at the next level.
The RedHawks rallied from a 3-run first-inning deficit to beat Winters 9-5 in the Division III title game and Maxwell routed Chester 8-0 in the Division IV championship on May 18 at Butte College's Cowan Field.
Eric Lay guided Colusa to a 27-5 overall record and the school's second section championship, with the first coming in 1997.
Lay's former team, Maxwell, went 22-6 under first-year coach Forrest Bateman and won the title for the seventh time.
A Colusa alumnus, Matt Vedo, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2012 and completed his second season of professional ball, posting a 5-2 record with two saves and a 7.20 ERA as a reliever for the Clinton LumberKings in the Single-A Midwest League, before suffering an injury in late June.
Maxwell graduate Tyler Wells finished up his sophomore season at University of Nevada, Reno as the Wolfpacks' No. 2 starter and compiled 4-6 record with a 4.39 E.R.A. and 68 strikeouts in 82 innings.
Not to be left out, Pierce put together a turnaround season before losing to Colusa in the semifinals of the Division III playoffs 8-3 in the first year under coach Cecil Felkins.
The Bears went on an 8-1 run to close out the season before upsetting Willows in the opening round of the playoffs 10-8. Pierce finished the season with a 13-12 record despite a significant number of underclassmen in the starting lineup and pitching staff.
There was one major blemish on the baseball season in the county: Williams dropped its baseball team after former coach Travis Hayes left for Willows and too few players turned out to field a team.
Panthers win first volleyball title
Led by an athletic core of experienced seniors, the Panthers blossomed with the guidance of second-year coach Dan Gellermann.
The Panthers entered the postseason with a stellar record but were untested after playing fewer matches and a relatively weak schedule compared to most teams in the division.
Despite that handicap, Maxwell survived two close matches against Liberty Christian and Westwood before blowing through Redding Christian with relative ease 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 25-20 in the championship match on Nov. 23.
Maxwell finished the season with a 21-1 record and the team's only loss was a 3-2 defeat to Pierce in the first match of the season.
Senior setter Shelen Boyes earned rave reviews from Gellermann, a former assistant on the U.S. Women's National Team, and was named Mid-Valley League MVP and was named to the Appeal-Democrat's All-Area First Team.
Boyes distributed the to ball to a talented pair of middle hitters, Kaily McKinley and Jenna Powell, and outside hitters Brittany Haywood, Jessie Otterson and Taylor Perry while libero Maribel Venegas provided solid defense in the back row.
Powell, McKinley and Haywood earned all-league honors.
Pierce hurdler reaches section masters meet, sets school record
Andres Mendez discovered a knack for gliding over hurdles on a challenge from his older brother Isidro Mendez at the start of the track and field season and in a few short months he was standing on the medal podium at the Northern Section Finals on May 24.
In 2012, Mendez competed in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump but shifted his focus to the 100, 110-hurdles and 300-hurdles and nearly qualified for the section finals in the 110-hurdles, but finished a close second at the Division III meet.
The junior shattered his personal record and the school record with a run of 40.83 seconds at the section finals, good for fifth place, a little more than a second behind the champion, Nick Putnam from West Valley.
Mendez won the Sacramento Valley League title with a time of 44.56 seconds on May 7, then dropped his time to 42.75 seconds at the D-III meet on May 17 before crushing the school record of 41.6 seconds set by Jim Freeman in 1990 by nearly a second.
The only other Colusa County athlete to qualify for the section finals was Colusa's Ryan Abele, also a junior, who finished fourth in the 100 meters with a time of 11.23 seconds. Abele finished fourth in the 200 as a sophomore in 2012.
Williams High starts wrestling program
The Yellowjackets' inaugural home wrestling meet on Jan. 23 against Wheatland High was years in the making for coach Nik Willis. It was on his mind from the time he began teaching at the school eight years ago.
During his first three years in Williams there were no mats, uniforms or wrestlers for Willis to coach, so he stayed on as the coach of the Yuba City High wrestling team. Four years ago, the school bought a mat and uniforms, but the program remained on hold due to budget constraints.
In the meantime, Willis started a youth wrestling program in Williams to try to inspire children to get started in the sport early. His work paid off as about a dozen wrestlers turned out for the high school team's first year.
At the first home meet, all but one of the Yellowjackets lost via pin to a strong Wheatland team which competes in the highly competitive Butte View League. Williams wrestles in the Sacramento Valley League and is a Division II team.
Most of the wrestlers competed at the junior varsity level throughout the season as the program played catch up against much more experienced teams.
Maxwell football wins title after starting season 0-2
Maxwell lost its first two games of the season before ripping through the rest of the schedule on an 11-game winning streak.
The Panthers' closest game during the win streak was a 27-20 overtime victory against Fall River on Sept. 27 and the two teams faced off in the Division IV championship game on Nov. 27.
Any idea that the Bulldogs were in the same stratosphere as Maxwell quickly went out the window as the Panthers thundered to a 35-7 victory.
Dominating defense sparked the turnaround after the 42-21 loss Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champion Bradshaw Christian and a 22-9 loss to Williams marred by penalties and turnovers.
Maxwell outscored its opponents 418-170 as All-Mountain Valley League quarterback Blake Vierra completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and rushed for a team-high 1,017 yards and 19 scores.
All-league lineman Zach Troughton dominated in the trenches along a stout line on both offense and defense. Running backs Eddie Rangel and Brian Burg earned all-league honors, as did offensive lineman A.J. Rolon and wide receivers Bryce Perry and Santiago Gonzalez.
Colusa's Mollie Townzen qualifies for state meet
After spending the fall sports season of her freshman year watching the Colusa junior varsity volleyball team play while nursing a season-ending injury, Townzen switched over to the cross country team for her sophomore year. It was the right choice.
Townzen finished second in the Butte View League to Durham's Madison Schell before topping Schell at the Northern Section Cross Country Championships on Nov. 14 at West Valley High in Cottonwood.
Not only did Townzen beat Schell, she finished 13th overall and qualified for the state championships on Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno where she placed 76th out of 184 of the top Division V runners in California.
The RedHawks' other dynamic sophomore runner, Max Moreno, qualified for the state meet with a 46th place finish at the section meet. Moreno finished 169th in the Division V race.
Ben Geyer wins second NorCal title
For three days Ben Geyer dominated the field at the Northern California Golf Association Amateur Stroke Play Championship and took home his second consecutive title in the event on July 15 at Bayonet Golf Club in Seaside, this time by nine strokes.
The 21-year-old from Arbuckle became the first player in the 10-year history of the event to defend his title.
Geyer shot 11-under-par for a 54-hole total of 205, beating Robby Salomon of Carmel and Matt Williams, who played at Chico State and lives in Chico. Both Williams and Salomon shot 2-under at 214 but Salomon took second, winning a scorecard playoff.
This year Geyer also completed his collegiate career at St. Mary's where he was the co-West Coast Conference Player of the Year and was named Academic all-WCC for the third-consecutive year. Geyer graduated with a degree in business administration with a focus in marketing.
Rally racing makes debut
The Mendocino Rally in Lake County expanded to two days and brought competitors from the California Rally Series and Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series to the rough dirt of Walker Ridge Road just off Highway 20 in western Colusa County on July 20.
The nearly 15-mile course provided a challenge for the 20 drivers and their co-drivers as they slid sideways along the windy road at high speed in race-prepped cars, which included Subaru WRXs, Mitsubishi Lancers, Volkswagen GTIs and a 1976 Porsche 912.
Dave Henderson of Hood River, Ore. and his co-driver Terrence McDowell won all seven stages of the rally, which included a second day at Cow Mountain Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area west of Clear Lake.
The cars ran the 15-mile stretch in Colusa County three times and the Cow Mountain stage four times and featured several classes of cars in both four-wheel and two-wheel drive categories.