By Ray Hamill — Week two of the local prep football season is now in the books, and certain trends are beginning to unfold.
Here then are five takeaways from week two of the season.
1 – Huskies, Loggers answer the call
The defending 5-A state champions wasted no time getting back on track, with some dynamic performances on both sides of the ball, and racking up 270 yards rushing with eight different players contributing.
Senior Jason Besonceney had a team-high 94 yards rushing on 9 carries, including a pair of TDs, while also impressing at linebacker, and sophomore Levi Nyberg continued his impressive start to the season with 99 yards total offense and three TDs. QB Zac Claus completed 8-of-10 passes for 116 yards.
All of this behind what was clearly a dominating display from the Huskies along both lines.
The Loggers, meanwhile, were just as impressive — at least in the second half, they were.
One week after their big road win at James Logan (1-1), the Loggers struggled to do much of anything other than commit penalties in a frustrating opening half at home to Ukiah (1-1) on Friday night.
Andrew Butler of The Times-Standard sports desk told me there were 32 penalty flags thrown on Eureka in the first half alone.
An experienced coaching staff must have got their point across at halftime, however, and — more importantly — an experienced group of players answered the call.
And they did so in style, scoring touchdowns on their opening five possessions of the second half on the the way to a dominating 41-13 victory.
What was perhaps most impressive was the number of players who stepped up their second-half performances.
The manner in which both these teams responded to adversity this week bodes well for each going forward.
2 – For physical Del Norte, the Price is right
We all suspected the Warriors would be better this year than last season’s 3-7 campaign, but I’m not sure we expected them to look this much better this quickly.
Tigers head coach Jamal Jones said last week that the Warriors are the most physical team in the area year in, year out, a belief shared by many throughout the Humboldt-Del Norte League.
In Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova’s words, they’re getting there.
What’s clear is that this year’s team is far better than a year ago and could now match its 2017 win total (three) before the end of August.
The players are a year older and more developed than they were last season and that’s given them a huge edge in the trenches thus far.
And with versatile senior Ethan Price capable of hurting opponents in many ways — not to mention big contributions from Sebastian Puente and OJ Calleja — the Warriors have stormed out of the starting gates this year.
On Friday, Del Norte rushed for 436 yards, including 224 from Price, wearing down a young Arcata team as the game went on.
Time will tell if they’re up to the challenge of a loaded Big 4 in October when the schedule gets tougher, but for now at least the Warriors are displaying a physicality that suggests they will be.
3 – Crusaders focus pays off
In the week leading up to the game, Crusaders head coach Matt Tomlin and his staff challenged his players on two accounts, and they answered both in dynamic fashion.
In a week one victory at home to El Molino, the Crusaders rushed the ball 50 times for 340 yards, relying on the ground game more than they would have liked, and so they put an emphasis on the passing game all week at practice while preparing for McKinleyville.
And it paid off, with quarterback Will Omey completing seven of his first nine passes over three quick possessions that each led to touchdowns.
Luke Fairfield had a huge day receiving, pulling in 13 catches for 117 yards, but it was the timing of his receptions and his ability to make the big play that impressed even more.
Tomlin also challenged his defensive line and linebackers to step up and both groups delivered in a dominating performance, holding the visitors scoreless until late in the third quarter.
4 – Tigers, Panthers won’t back down
Despite the setbacks, however, expect both head coaches to have their players ready to go again in the next game and for the players’ belief not to waver.
Both head coaches — Jones of Arcata (right) and McKinleyville’s Keoki Burbank (left) — have instilled a belief in their players even if it hasn’t transpired in terms of results yet.
And both look as if they’re building something special with their respective programs, despite limited resources and depth available to them.
Most importantly, the players appear to be buying into what the coaches are preaching, and because of that you can be certain they’ll be primed and ready to go for the next game.
And that’s something that will pay off down the road for both these young teams when the schedule eases up a little for both.
5 – Big Four dominates again
Even taking into account the relative quality of the opposition, the Big 4 seems to grow a little more impressive each week.
We expected good things out of both Fortuna and Eureka, and each has delivered on those expectations.
What we weren’t as certain of was what we’d get from St. Bernard’s and Del Norte, and thus far at least, each has pleasantly surprised.
In two weeks, the Big 4 is now 7-1 combined, with Fortuna’s loss to powerhouse Cardinal Newman the only blemish.
This past weekend, the Big 4 teams combined to go 4-0 by a score of 171-45.
It’s still early in the season, but October looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun for prep football here on the North Coast.