The first Wednesday in February was a memorable one for several class of 2020 football players from Cache Valley.

At least eight local seniors accepted scholarship offers and signed with collegiate programs Wednesday at part of National Letter of Intent Day. A story detailing Sky View all-state offensive lineman Justice Ena’s commitment to Utah State was featured in a previous edition of The Herald Journal, and the senior made it official Wednesday.

Other local players who inked with collegiate programs Wednesday were Green Canyon’s Tristan Reece and Bryce Christensen, Preston’s Ty Hyde and Scott Dunn, Mountain Crest’s Edgardo Huerta, Logan’s Tennyson Hadfield and SV’s Traeson Martindale. Additionally, Bobcat all-state safety Scout Morris will join USU’s program as a preferred walk-on. Reece and Christensen are the first-ever Green Canyon football players to accept offers at the next level.

“I just want to tell the younger players if they have a dream, go chase it,” Christensen said. “Be a dream chaser, have goals (and) don’t let anybody tell you what you can or can’t do. Just dream, chase your dreams.”

Christensen is headed to Rochester Community and Technical College, which is located in Rochester, Minnesota. The North Logan resident, like Reece, was able to attract the attention of collegiate coaches through the popular NSCA recruiting database.

The son of Gina and Cort Christensen garnered honorable mention all-region honors as a 6-foot-3, 260-pound offensive lineman for the Wolves, who came oh so close to advancing to the semifinals of the 4A State Championships. Christensen also received offers from a few other smaller colleges and was in contact with Mountain West schools USU, Hawaii and Nevada.

“I sent out video to a lot of colleges, had a lot of offers saying that they want me to come out and check out (their) campus, but I felt like Rochester was the (right choice), that they were going to get me on the right track and go win a championship and a bowl game,” Christensen said.

The Yellowjackets are coming off a solid 2019 campaign as they went 6-3, including 4-2 in conference play. Rochester competes in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC).

Like Christensen, Reece was an integral cog on a much-improved Green Canyon squad that went 8-4 this past season. The 5-11, 185-pound outside linebacker was a big reason why the Wolves were much improved defensively in ‘19. As a senior, the son of Kim and Trent Reece racked up 99 tackles, including a team-best 20 for loss, and 3.5 sacks, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal.

Reece, who will compete at the Division III level for Benedictine University, has been looking forward to National Letter of Intent Day for a long time.

“It means everything,” Reece said. “Ever since I was little, from when I was playing flag football, this has been my goal. It’s a dream come true, it really is. I’m grateful for it and I’m just glad that my last football season wasn’t my last one. It honestly means everything to me and I’m so stoked, so excited and I just can’t wait.”

The North Logan resident, an honorable mention all-region selection, had offers from a few other collegiate programs, but when he traveled to the Lisle, Illinois-based university for a visit, “I just knew I wanted to go there.”

“To be honest, it was really the coaches,” said Reece was expressed his gratitude for this opportunity on several occasions. “My coaches that I did play for at Green Canyon, they always told me if I go and play at another level you have to be comfortable there. And you want to interact with the coaches, you want to be able to go up to them and tell them whatever you think. ... And I really felt like (I was) at home, I really did. It was just another amazing place to be. The coaching staff at Green Canyon, they were really good mentors and I listened to everything they said, and obviously it worked because I’m moving onto the next level.”

Benedictine competes in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC). The Eagles went 7-3, including 6-1 in conference play, this past season.

Huerta became the second member of his immediate family to sign with Southern Utah’s football program. The Wellsville resident’s oldest brother, Fernando, was an offensive lineman for the Thunderbirds, while another older brother, Alex, was a linebacker for USU.

“That means a lot,” Huerta said of following in his brothers’ footsteps. “My family didn’t really grow up around football. We just kind of fell in love with it, starting with Fernando. So, he’s the one that kind of laid out the path for me, and then Alex. But it means so much to me. It means so much to me just knowing that my hard work paid off and those early mornings, man, those late nights just staying (at school), working out, lifting. ... I’m extremely thankful and just humble to have the opportunity to go on and play (in college). It’s just a big blessing, honestly.”

The 6-2, 250-pounder sparkled on both sides of the trenches as a senior for the Mustangs. The son of Amanda and Anibal Huerta was tabbed a first-team all-state selection after recording 78 tackles, including 20.0 for a loss, and 9.0 sacks as a defensive lineman.

Huerta was offered as a D-lineman by SUU and fellow Big Sky Conference program Idaho, and those were the two schools he ultimately narrowed his decision down to. Huerta also had offers from a few D-II programs, plus was recruited by USU as an offensive center. SUU went 3-9 in ‘19, including 2-6 in Big Sky play.

“It was a tough decision for me,” Huerta said. “Both schools were really good. I mean, Idaho has a great program. Coach (Luther) Elliss is a great man, but SUU just kind of caught my attention more. Being close to home, it really means a lot. Family, for me, is very important, so I choose SUU.”

Huerta praised both of his parents for their support and said he was inspired to reach his potential by sister in-law Bayley Zollinger, who died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 2016. Zollinger, a Mountain Crest graduate, was married to Fernando and both were former SUU students. An unborn baby girl, who was to be named Elenna Grace, also passed away in the accident. The Huertas were in the process of moving back to Cache Valley at the time.

“She always told me that she believed in me and it meant so much to me, so I always am keeping her close to my heart,” Edgardo Huerta said. “And it’s tough, but we’ll see her again one day.”

There is a good chance Huerta will square off against Hadfield, a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, in the future. That’s because Hadfield has signed with Dixie State University, which will start competing at the Division I level this upcoming season. Dixie State, which will start off as an independent FCS program, will face SUU, Weber State and two other Big Sky teams in its inaugural season.

The son of Kimberleigh and Bretton Hadfield received his first scholarship offer from the Trailblazers and ultimately remained faithful to the program that courted him first. The first-team all-region honoree had “a couple of other avenues I was considering,” including a scholarship offer from Snow College and preferred walk-on offers from USU, BYU and Weber State.

“Oh, it means the world, it means everything,” Hadfield said. “As soon as I got my offer from Dixie, I had never felt more satisfied in my life. I’m just super excited to go to college and get that paid for, and to continue to play more football. ... I’m excited to start the next part of my life and go play more football.”

The Logan native recently competed in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, which was contested in the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. Hadfield’s team prevailed in an overtime thriller.

“That experience was really awesome,” said Hadfield, who contributed with 38 tackles and 2.0 sacks as a senior D-lineman for the Grizzlies. “We were able to go play in AT&T Stadium and I was able to get a feel for how the competition will be at the next level, since I was playing against a whole bunch of other kids who are going to be playing at the next level.”

Dixie State was rock solid in its final season as a D-II program. The Trailblazers, who are led by former Snow College head coach Paul Peterson, went 8-3 a year ago.

Hadfield will be joined at Dixie State by the 6-7, 240-pound Hyde, who was essentially recruited by the Trailblazers as an athlete. The son of Karie and Brent Johnson and Tony Hyde was Preston’s starting quarterback and a first-team all-district defensive end as a senior, but initially piqued Dixie State’s curiosity as a potential tight end.

“The thing that they’ve told me they’ve seen is a bunch of potential, so whether I need to play tight end or O-line or D-end, it doesn’t really matter,” Hyde said.

Hyde threw for 2,042 yards and 22 touchdowns, vs. 10 interceptions, in nine games for the Indians in ’19, and chipped in with a trio of sacks defensively. The Preston resident is also a first-team all-state post player for Preston’s basketball team and helped propel the Indians to the 4A state title game a year ago.

“I’m absolutely pumped because all I’ve wanted my whole life was a shot to play D-I sports, whether it be basketball or football,” Hyde said. “And Dixie State, once they saw me, they came down to my basketball practice, they offered me at basketball practice, and that’s really all I wanted was an opportunity.”

Hyde made it a point to thank his family, coaches and teammates for helping him earn this opportunity.

“Everyone’s played a huge part in this,” he said. “... I can’t thank them enough for what they do for me and continue to do for me.”

Like Hyde, Dunn is a multi-sport star for the Indians. In addition to being a talented wide receiver, the son of Jill and Chad Dunn is an all-state caliber shooting guard and sprinter for Preston’s track & field team.

It was Dunn’s speed, among other things, that caught the attention of perennial junior college power Snow. In a district game against Minico, Dunn hustled to make a diving touchdown-saving tackle despite trailing the opposing tailback by at least 10 yards. Unfortunately for the Preston resident, he broke his arm and missed the rest of the season.

“Luckily, Snow saw the highlights from the season and that play I caused breaking my arm,” Dunn said when asked if he was nervous the injury would deter any potential college suitors. “Luckily, they got their hands on that, but I was worried at first, for sure.”

Despite playing in essentially four games for Preston as a senior, Dunn still caught 13 passes for 402 yards (30.9 yards per reception) and five TDs. The 6-2, 160-pounder also returned seven punts for 194 yards and brought one back 98 yards to the house against Canyon Ridge.

Snow College has a proven history of sending its athletes to four-year program, and that’s something that resonated with Dunn. The Badgers went 5-3 this past season.

“Yeah, I’m really excited,” said Dunn, who was also recruited by the College of Idaho. “When they first called me, I didn’t really know a lot about them. You know, I’ve heard of them, but I looked into it more and learned their main priority is to win obviously, but ... they like to get kids out to bigger named schools, they take a lot of pride in that. ... I haven’t played in so long because I broke my arm, so I’m really excited to get back on the field and start playing again.”

Likewise, Martindale is itching to get back on the field after helping lead Sky View to a 4A state championship last fall. The Amalga resident secured first-team all-state accolades after finishing with 93 tackles, four interceptions and 3.0 sacks as a safety for the Bobcats.

Martindale has signed with the University of Mary, a D-II program based in Bismarck, North Dakota. The son of Mandee Olson and Jared Martindale, and grandson of Vic and Nancy Bingham also had offers from a trio of schools in Montana.

“It means so much and it’s more than just a sport to me, it’s my lifestyle,” Martindale said. “Everything I’ve ever known has been football. It’s a great opportunity to go and show what I have ... as well as to excel and continue with my schooling. ... It’s been something I’ve been thinking of since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to play college football. I’d see those guys playing on TV and I just always thought, ‘wow, those guys are awesome. I would love to be one of those guys.’”

The 5-9, 175-pounder first caught the attention of the Marauders’ defensive backs coach at a summer camp at the University of Montana.

“I started off pretty poor and was playing bad, and the DB coach coached me up, calmed me down, got me playing the best I could,” Martindale said. “And then they really liked me, I really liked him and we just kind of connected, and they keep talking to me from there.”

Martindale made it a point to thank his coaches and family “and especially the University of Mary for keeping faith in me. I know I’m quite undersized, but they believed that they can use me even though I am a small safety.”

The University of Mary went 2-9 in ’19. The Marauders compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).

Martindale, Dunn, Hyde, Huerta, Reece and Christensen will all enroll at their respective universities/colleges for the upcoming fall semester, while Hadfield will grayshirt his first football season and enroll at Dixie in January of next year. Ena will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling at USU.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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