By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers overcame a sloppy, penalty-filled first half with a big second-half performance on Friday night, overwhelming visiting Ukiah 41-13 at Albee Stadium.
Playing their home opener, the Loggers looked anything but prepared for the game with what seemed like a season’s worth of penalties in the first two quarters alone.
Ukiah, which had its own share of penalties as well, opened up a 13-7 lead on the final play of the first half, taking advantage of a late Eureka fumble – the Loggers’ second of the half – and driving 26 yards on two plays for the lead.
Only a couple of nice Robert Weir runs and a four-yard Cruz Montana TD scramble highlighted an otherwise ugly half of play for the home side.
The second half, however, was a very different story for the Loggers, who scored touchdowns on their opening five possessions of the half to end the contest long before the final buzzer.
“It was kind of a weird win,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “I’ve never coached a game like that.”
It was also an emotional win for the Loggers, who displayed composure and experience by overcoming their first-half flaws in such dynamic fashion.
Montana was near perfect in the second half, taking full advantage of the several weapons at his disposal and tossing four TDs to four different receivers, and once again taking care of the ball.
“Like I said this week, he’s just a real consistent player,” White said of his senior quarterback. “And he’s one of the hardest workers on our team.”
Cruz Montana throws TD passes to Isley Talmau, Tyce Mullins and Zach Reed during Friday’s game with Ukiah at Albee Stadium.
Another senior, Zach Reed, was again inspirational on both sides of the ball and continued his impressive start to the season with another interception and two more TDs.
In two games, Reed has four touchdowns, and three interceptions.
“That’s pretty crazy,” White said. “And he’s an intelligent player. He’s always asking questions, and they’re really good questions.”
Defensively, Tyce Mullins had an outstanding night, as the entire unit came up with several big plays, including four interceptions, two of them from Isley Tulmau who now also has three on the year.
Ryan Sylvia added another pick, giving the Loggers nine in two games.
More importantly, they solved the problem of Ukiah quarterback Nate Johnson, who made several big plays against them last season.
“I think one of the things we did well was throw a lot of different coverages at their quarterback,” White said.
Weir was one of the few bright spots in the first half, coming up with runs of 27 and 32 yards to keep drives going, the latter of which led to Montana’s TD run, which tied the game at 7-7 midway through the second quarter.
“We had to fix the penalties. We couldn’t get any rhythm whatsoever,” White said.
The offense took off in the third quarter. An early pick by Sylvia gave the Loggers possession at midfield and they quickly drove to the end zone on four plays, capped by a 37-yard pass from Montana to Tulmau.
Montana also connected with Mullins on a 40-yard play midway through the quarter, and added his third scoring pass of the day on the opening play of the fourth quarter, this time to Reed on an 11-yard completion.
Reed added his second TD of the quarter on a 10-yard run a few minutes later.
Later in the quarter, Montana connected with Tony Barreno on a 36-yard TD reception to close out the scoring.
Weir finished with a team-high 99 yards rushing on eight carries, while Alex Miller had 44 yards on nine carries.
Montana completed 9-of-12 passes for 188 yards and the four TDs, while rushing for 26 yards on six carries.
Tulmau led the receivers with four catches for 65 yards and the TD.
Mullins was credited with nine tackles, while senior linebacker Hunter Ethridge had a huge game on the defensive side of the ball, including a big second-half sack as the Loggers set an aggressive tone.
Eureka is now 2-0 on the season and will play at Scott’s Valley next week.