By Ray Hamill — Eight of the nine local prep football teams will be in action on Friday and Saturday, with four of them looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season going.
At Albee Stadium, Eureka (3-0) will host Foothill (1-1) under the Friday night lights, with the Loggers dominating all three of its early-season opponents.
Also on Friday, Del Norte (3-0) returns home to play Brookings-Harbor (1-0) in Crescent City, while Arcata (0-3) travels south to Willits to play the 0-2 Wolverines.
The undefeated South Fork Cubs (2-0) get Saturday’s action under way in their league opener at Round Valley (0-1) at noon, while a pair of afternoon games involving all local teams sees Hoopa Valley (1-1) travel to play St. Bernard’s (3-0), and Fortuna (2-1) head across the 101 to play Ferndale (1-1) in the much-anticipated annual Milk Can Game.
Brookings-Harbor (1-0) at Del Norte (3-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors return home to host Brookings-Harbor fresh off a pair of impressive road wins that has them off to a perfect 3-0 start.
Last weekend, Del Norte defeated Yreka 44-0 with another outstanding night from triple threat senior Ethan Price.
In their three games, the Warriors have outscored Ferndale, Arcata and Yreka 129-12, with a pair of shutouts.
The Warriors will be tested far more when the opposition gets tougher, but thus far it’s been an impressive start to the campaign and one that is likely to get even better.
And crucially, this is a team that continues to grow.
“We were more consistent,” head coach Lewis Nova said of the Yreka game. “We’re still shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and things like that, but we were more consistent moving the ball. And our special teams put points on the board as well.”
The Warriors feature a trio of offensive threats, with Price, OJ Calleja and Sebastian Puente.
Price is a triple threat on his own. He can pass or run the ball at quarterback, or line up at receiver with Calleja taking over at QB.
Through the opening three games, Price leads the team in rushing (430 yards at an average of 13.4 a carry) and receiving (six receptions for 116 yards).
He also has completed 5-of-7 pass attempts for 74 yards.
For good measure, Puente has 348 yards rushing at a 12.4 average, giving the Warriors a potent one-two punch running the ball.
Each also has six rushing touchdowns.
Each, however, has also relied on a physical line that has matured from last year when the Warriors struggled to just two wins on the field of play.
“They’re bigger and stronger than last year,” Nova said of the line. “And if you get good hard blocking and good hard running, it’s a great combination.”
The unit is led by Eli Larson, who is enjoying a stellar season.
“He’s doing some good things offensively and defensively, and he continues to get better,” Nova said.
Arcata (0-3) at Willits (0-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The good news is one of these two teams is going to get its first win this week.
For Arcata, the Friday night showdown offers a more competitive prospect after matching up with a pair of strong Big 4 squads the past two weeks.
Willits is coming off a 55-27 loss at Ferndale last week, although Arcata head coach Jamal Jones isn’t buying too much into that.
“I was at that game, and I thought it was definitely closer than the score. It kind of got away from them,” he said. “I think they do some things really well. I think they pass the ball really well. And they’ve got a couple of playmakers on the edge we’ve got to be concerned with.”
The Tigers have suffered a ton of early-season injuries that have hurt them in terms of their performances, although the players are not feeling sorry for themselves.
“We’re down five bodies this week, so we’re going to pull up some JV guys, and we’re going to work,” Jones said. “We’ve got the next-man-up mentality.”
The Tigers have a bye next week before league play, which will give them an opportunity to heal up at least some.
In addition, with so many injuries early on, several younger players are getting the opportunity to step up and gain valuable experience.
“We’re starting some young guys that have never started before, and I think the challenge is going to be these guys learning how to play, and the older guys teaching them,” Jones said.
The Tigers are coming off a productive week of practice, and the attitude of the players has been upbeat in spite of the early-season struggles.
“The energy has been great,” he said.