Local football season opens with a bang

438A4223 3By Ray Hamill … The local prep football season officially gets under way this weekend, and it looks like it’s going to open with a bang.

Taking center stage, there are three huge matchups right off the bat, none bigger than Cardinal Newman’s trip to Fortuna to take on the defending 5-A state champion Huskies.

In total, seven of the nine local high schools will be in action, with South Fork and Hoopa not kicking off until next weekend.

There is only one all-local matchup this week, with Ferndale traveling to Del Norte, while Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville all travel out of the county.

Cardinal Newman (0-0) at Fortuna (0-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.

(Radio: Mix 95.1 FM and The Edge 106.7 FM)

The Cardinals are a perennial powerhouse out of Santa Rosa who went 10-3 a year ago and were one of just two teams to knock off the Huskies on their historic charge to the state crown.

The Huskies will be out for a measure of revenge after that season-opening loss a year ago, with several key players returning, including along the line and at quarterback.

Head coach Mike Benbow has built a highly competitive program at Fortuna and that should continue this season.

Whether or not they can get their revenge this weekend largely depends on how quickly the inexperienced skill players adapt to their bigger roles this season.

Either way, it should be a fantastic matchup and the first step in what is going to be a tough and exciting schedule for Benbow’s Fortuna.

Radio coverage begins 20 minutes before kickoff.

Eureka (0-0) at James Logan (0-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The Loggers open the season against the largest school in the North Coast Section, traveling to take on James Logan in Union City.

The Colts, who were 5-5 a year ago, feature a new face calling the shots on the sideline, with head coach Ricky Rodriquez moving to James Logan after going 20-4 over the past two seasons with Encinal.

This will be a tough test for Eureka, but the Loggers have plenty of experience, with most of their starters back from last year’s 11-1 squad.

Head coach Jason White also has an experienced staff which should have the players focused and ready to go.

“They always play us tough,” White said of the Colts. “They have some good athletes.”

Ferndale (0-0) at Del Norte (0-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Another exciting matchup to get things started, these two teams may not quite be the force they recently were, but they usually serve up a thrilling encounter.

“They’re always tough,” Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova said of the Wildcats. “You take that farmer atmosphere and these kids are always tough and ready to go. We’ve had some real barn-burner games in the past and look for this one to be no different.”

The Warriors return third-year starting quarterback Ethan Price and the athletic senior will be key for Del Norte.

Clint McClurg takes over at head coach for Ferndale, which was 5-7 a year ago.

“Every year is different, but Del Norte is always big and physical and we’ve got to be ready for that challenge,” McClurg said.

The Cats have not won a league title since 2013, a long time for such a proud and successful program.

They are, however, considered one of the frontrunners for this year’s Little 4 and a win at Crescent City would be an impressive marker to send out on opening week.

El Molino (0-0) at St. Bernard’s, Saturday, 2 p.m.

(Radio: Mix 95.1 FM and The Edge 106.7 FM)

The Crusaders will play in the Big 4 this season and are facing a tough schedule.

That, however, won’t bother head coach Matt Tomlin or his players, who always have talent and come ready to play, even if they don’t have the numbers of many of their opponents.

This season they open against an El Molino team that was 4-6 in 2017, including a 2-3 mark in the usually competitive Sonoma County League.

Radio coverage begins 20 minutes before kickoff.

McKinleyville (0-0) at St. Vincent de Paul (0-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

The Panthers are back, and head coach Keoki Burbank is confident this year’s team is here to compete and not just make up numbers in the Little 4.

They certainly have a talented core that won’t get pushed around easily on the line, which should give them the chance to be competitive.

The Panthers, who had to cancel the majority of last season, open on the road against a St. Vincent de Paul squad that was 1-8 a year ago but welcomes a new head coach in Trent Herzog.

Arcata (0-0) at St. Helena (0-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

The Tigers also open on the road on Saturday, traveling to St. Helena to take on a Saints team that was 3-5 a year ago.

Arcata head coach Jamal Jones says his players have been waiting a long time to get back on the field after this disappointing playoff loss to Clear Lake last season.

The Tigers drop down to the Little 4 this season but are considered the frontrunners by many and expected to challenge for the league title.

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