By Ray Hamill — The local prep football season got under way last weekend, with seven of the nine North Coast teams in action.
And while there wasn’t any major surprises, there were some notable takeaways nonetheless.
1 — Big 4 might be even better than advertised
While we suspected coming in that the Big 4 would be an extremely tough league this fall, we may actually have underestimated just how tough.
Favorites Eureka took care of business in style with a big 40-21 win at James Logan, and the Loggers appear to be everything we thought they would be.
While Fortuna’s loss to Cardinal Newman had probably more to do with how good the Cardinals are rather than any problems the defending state champion Huskies may have.
Both Del Norte and newcomers St. Bernard’s, however, came into the season with some questions about whether they could challenge Eureka and Fortuna this season, and both gave an emphatic answer in week one with dominating wins.
It’s still very early in the season, but all four Big 4 teams are looking good.
(Interestingly, despite their loss the Huskies did not drop from their No. 20 spot in the Prep2Prep North Coast Section rankings this week. Three local teams are ranked in the top 25, with Eureka moving up one spot this week to No. 16 and St. Bernard’s holding steady at No. 25.)
2 — Del Norte packs a punch
After a disappointing 3-7 campaign last season that included four league losses, the Del Norte Warriors began the 2018 campaign with an impressive showing at home to Ferndale in a 40-0 win.
The Warriors are big and physical, and match that with some strong options on offense, most notably third-year varsity starter Ethan Price.
The senior quarterback/receiver accounted for four TDs in the season-opening win, with junior QB OJ Calleja splitting time under center and throwing for over 100 yards and a pair of TDs.
If week one is anything to go by, the Warriors will be a tough out for anyone this season.
3 — SB has plenty of options
It might not sound like a huge surprise, considering the wealth of talented athletics the Crusaders always seem to have coming through their ranks, but coming into this campaign we weren’t quite sure how this year’s team would look with so many new faces on hand.
They thoroughly dominated El Molino in their opener, however, making a statement both in the trenches and at the skill positions.
There were several stars for the Crusaders in the opener, most notably center/nose tackle Connor Chase and quarterback Will Omey, but what was most impressive was the cohesive nature of the team performance.
Head coach Matt Tomlin is a good coach who always has his players prepared, and if week one is anything to go by, this year’s Crusaders are going to as dangerous as always.
4 — Mack D is going to be tough
The Panthers are back, and while they may have lost their opener on the road against a solid St. Vincent de Paul squad, there were some positives to take nonetheless.
Even though the offense made too many mental errors, junior quarterback Jack Patton was able to move the ball effectively at times. But what stood out most was the play on the defensive side of the ball.
The Panthers held the home team to just six points until the fourth quarter, and displayed a knack for big plays, which is always a good sign.
It’s only a small sample size, but expect the Panthers to get better as the season goes on.
5 — Eureka will be difficult to stop
A lot is expected out of the Loggers this season with their experience and wealth of talent.
But those expectations didn’t seem to affect the players in their opener with a dominating win at James Logan, the largest school in the NCS.
The Loggers don’t appear to have too many weaknesses, with a experienced line and quarterback, a ton of offensive weapons and a stout, physical defense that turned in a dynamic performance in the opener (five takeaways).
There’s still a long way to go with a tough schedule ahead, but Eureka looks up to the challenge in 2018.