By Ray Hamill … With a wealth of talented returning starters from a team that finished 11-1 last fall, expectations will be high for the Eureka Loggers in 2018.
However, with plenty of experience on the field and within the coaching staff, the Loggers won’t be looking past anybody and are determined to take it step by step.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” head coach Jason White said. “You don’t want to look at the big picture, you want to look at the little pieces and working on getting better every game.”
The Loggers can’t afford to look past anyone with an extremely tough schedule on tap, and matching last season’s 11-0 start will be a tough act to follow.
There is, however, reason to believe this year’s team could be better than in 2017, and they should be in contention for postseason glory.
Back is senior quarterback Cruz Montana, as well as league lineman of the year Isaak Gutierrez, and the 2018 roster features a plethora of dynamic weapons, as well as the all-around talents of senior tight end Tyce Mullins.
“We have experience and that’s never a bad thing,” White said. “And we’re probably a little bigger and stronger than we were last year.”
As with any good football team, that all begins in the trenches, where Gutierrez anchors a deep and talented offensive line.
Alongside the standout senior, John Foster and Miles Meynell bring size and experience to the tackle positions.
Reese Walters, Gary Jiminez, Drew Jensen and Lari Racines will each also see plenty of playing time on a unit expected to be a strength in 2018.
Under center, Cruz returns from a 2017 campaign that saw him put up remarkable numbers, completing 97-of-164 passes for 1,618 yards, 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
According to White, Cruz is coming off a “great offseason.”
Trevor Bell is another option for White and offensive coordinator Garett Montana at quarterback and has impressed his coaches in preseason practice.
“Both kids are hard workers,” White said. “We feel like we have two good quarterbacks.”
This year’s team also features what White describes as the deepest receiving corps in the six years he has been the program’s head coach.
In addition to the talented Mullins, who had 13 catches for 194 yards last season, senior Tony Barreno, junior Josiah Graham and sophomore Shannon Henry have all impressed at receiver, as have seniors Zach Reed and Austin Maples, and juniors Lamarie Dunn and Ruben Gutierrez.
Senior running back Isley Tulmau could be one of the Loggers’ most effective weapons operating at receiver and out of the backfield.
A “stable of running backs,” as White describes them, is loaded with senior talent — Alex Miller, Robert Weir, Ryan Silvia and Reed — as well as Dunn.
Most of the offensive starters will also see plenty of time on defense, with a standout linebacking corps of Sylvia, Miller and Reed joined by senior Hunter Ethridge, who will play exclusively on defense.
Defensively, Mullins will also line up at middle linebacker, and is expected to lead the way once again after a stellar junior campaign that saw him record 20 tackles and an interception in last season’s league-deciding showdown with Fortuna.
“He definitely plays with a lot of intensity,” White said of Mullins.
The Loggers also feature a ton of experience on the sidelines, with White, Montana and defensive assistant Ray Watson bringing 20 years head coaching experience between them.
Aug. 17 at James Logan 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 Ukiah 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Scotts Valley 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 Foothill 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Shasta 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 Lincoln 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Livermore 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 St. Bernard’s 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Del Norte 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Fortuna 7:30 p.m.