By Ray Hamill — It’s no secret the Eureka Loggers feature a lot of weapons on offense this year, with quarterback Cruz Montana spreading the ball around.
Through two games, Montana has completed passes to nine different receivers, while an impressive 15 different players have run the ball.
Some teams don’t have squads that large.
But while that has been an obvious strength for Eureka, and makes it impossible for opponents to focus in on any one player, it’s only half the story.
Loggers overcome mistakes, dominate Ukiah — 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.
What makes Eureka even more dangerous is that most of those offensive weapons also play on the other side of the ball, and they’ve been making some big plays there as well.
Through the opening two games of the season, in fact, the Loggers already have nine interceptions, averaging more than one a quarter.
Again, most teams wouldn’t have that many in a year.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team with nine interceptions after two games,” long-time Eureka head coach Jason White said.
“We are deep at receiver and all those kids play defense, and we have some good athletics at those spots.”
The team’s schemes have also helped, with an emphasis on a lot of different looks, something that appears to be paying off.
“With that combination of those two things, it’s working well for us,” White said.
Seniors Zach Reed and Isley Tulmau have accounted for six of the nine interceptions between them, but they’re far from the only playmakers on the team.
Ryan Sylvia, Josiah Graham, and Gage Ethridge each also have an interception, while players like Hunter Ethridge and Tyce Mullins, who are both enjoying outstanding seasons thus far, have a combined 39 tackles between them, including seven for a loss.
The Loggers, however, have yet to recover a fumble.
Protecting the ball
On the offensive side of the ball, the Loggers have been prone to early-season fumbles, with six different players accounting for seven dropped balls, five of which have been recovered by the opposing team.
It’s a problem the Loggers will have to address going forward if they want to compete in a tough Big 4 and beyond.
The passing game, however, has been near perfect, with Montana completing 22-of-34 passes for 455 yards — an average of more than 20 yards a completion — and five TDs.
Just as impressive, the senior signal caller has taken care of the ball, with no interceptions.
Big yardage, too many penalties
Apart from the obvious problem of fumbling the ball, the Loggers have been successful gaining big yardage running the ball, and after receptions.
Eureka is averaging 270.5 yards a game rushing, at an average of 6.9 a carry, and this has come against some solid opposition.
Robert Weir leads the way in the backfield with 154 yards on 16 carries, while teammate Alex Miller has 136 yards on 21 carries, plus 89 yards receiving.
Penalties have also been an early concern for the Loggers, with a sloppy first half against Ukiah last weekend.
“We looked at the film and I counted 20 penalties, and we felt that 15 were legitimate, and 15 is way too many,” White said.
Cleaning up the mistakes were a priority at practice this week.
The Loggers will try to make it three straight wins to start the season on Friday at Scotts Valley.
The Falcons are 1-0, opening the season a week ago with a 44-20 win at home to Santa Cruz, with long-time head coach Louie Walters fielding a consistently competitive program every year.
“They play hard-nosed football,” White said. “His kids are very well-coached, and he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”
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And the Eureka coach is expecting a battle.
“I’m looking for a hard-fought game,” White said. “These guys are trying to run the football all the time, and they’re trying to be a physical team.”
And the Loggers can expect a few trick plays thrown into the mix.
“We’ve just got to remain disciplined in our defense and stay in our coverage,” White said. “It will be a good test, and athletically they’ve got some guys. Their quarterback is pretty polished.”