By Ray Hamill — It was a high-scoring weekend for local prep football teams, with the nine squads combining for 395 points, an average of almost 44 points a team.
None of the nine scored fewer than two touchdowns, while three of them topped the 60-point mark, and four of them — almost half — scored more than 50.
The Hoopa Valley/St. Bernard’s game accounted for 95 points on its own, with a combined 13 touchdowns between the two teams.
Topping the list was McKinleyville, with 69 points scored at Elsie Allen.
Here are some other takeaways from week four in prep football …
1 – Loggers have reason to smile
It’s not just that the Loggers are winning big, it’s how they’re winning, and, in particular, how they have grown as a team since the start of the season.
We expected some impressive things from a squad that went 11-1 a year and returned almost all of its starter.
But what we didn’t know was how these players would handle the lofty expectations being placed on their relatively young shoulders, or how they would respond to adversity.
So far, so good on both accounts for the Loggers, who have been everything we expected and more, while handling any problems with a business-like efficiency that bodes well not just for this season, but for the future of the program.
The way the players themselves have responded to the early-season concerns such as penalties and fumbles, and the manner in which the players themselves addressed these concerns, suggests the Loggers are building a strong locker room culture that is being handed down from seniors to juniors and sophomores.
Eureka has an experienced team, and it’s showing in more ways than one.
The Loggers are also a multi-talented team, with an offense that in head coach Jason White’s words, “is running on all cylinders right now,” and a physically dominating defense that can’t stop making big plays.
Friday night’s big win over a thoroughly outmatched Foothill squad was impressive in just about every facet, and another big step forward for a team that is getting better each week.
Loggers dominate Foothill, improve to 4-0 — Eureka turned in a near perfect first-half performance at Albee Stadium on Friday night, on the way to a comprehensive 62-14 win over Foothill.
Tougher games await the Loggers, who are now clearly the frontrunners in a loaded Big 4, and as White and his players have preached since day one, they have to take it one game at a time, one week at a time, one opponent at a time, and not get ahead of themselves.
Better teams have fallen into that particular trap over the years, and as talented and all as the Loggers are, in any given week they’re only as good as their last game says they are.
Thus far, however, they’ve shown the right mindset and backed up all the expectations with a deep, deep roster that is clicking in just about every aspect of the game.
The Loggers have plenty of reasons to smile right now.
2 — H-DNL realignment a great move
If anyone doubted the league’s realignment at the outset of the season, surely those doubts have long been laid to rest.
With St. Bernard’s moving up to the Big 4 to compete alongside Del Norte, Fortuna and Eureka, both Arcata and McKinleyville dropped down to play with Ferndale and Hoopa Valley in the Little 4.
This works in two ways.
One, without the Crusaders the Little 4 is as wide open as it’s been in at least two decades, with anyone’s guess who’s going to win.
Hoopa Valley can’t contain dynamic St. Bernard’s pass attack in Saturday matchup at Crusaders Field …
In terms of results, the four squads have struggled to a combined 5-9 record, but most of those losses have come against bigger and deeper programs, and things will even out for all four when league play gets under way in two weeks.
All four can make a legitimate case as to why they can win the league this season, with little or nothing to separate the four.
Arcata and Ferndale were probably considered the frontrunners at the outset of the season, but injuries have hindered each somewhat, while Hoopa and Mack have shown more than we might have expected — and a greater physical presence — from two programs that have struggled for some time.
In a wide-open race like this, it should be a fascinating campaign.
Secondly, the league realignment works for the Big 4, which clearly has the top four teams in the area.
Which leads us on to …
3 — Big 4 gets better each week
The Big 4 continued to dominate over the weekend, outscoring its opponents 211-55.
The two Eureka schools put up 129 points alone, while all four schools are now a combined 15-1 this year, with Fortuna’s loss to a top Cardinal Newman team in week one the only blemish thus far.
Even taking into account the relative quality of some of the opposition, it’s difficult to criticize any of the Big 4 teams right now, and the manner in which they are going about their business is every bit as impressive as the results would suggest.
All four also continue to grow as the season has progressed.
The only downside is that they will play each other only once each in league play, with an all-or-nothing October on tap.
4 — Milk Can belongs in Fortuna — for now
There was a sizable separation between two close rivals on Saturday afternoon, when Fortuna rolled over Ferndale 47-13 to claim the coveted Milk Can for another year.
It was the sixth straight win for the Huskies in the highly-anticipated annual showdown, and their fifth straight putting up more than 40 points in the game.
The Fortuna Huskies overwhelmed rivals Ferndale on the way to comfortably retaining the Milk Can for another year on Saturday afternoon, coming away from Ferndale with a 47-13 win.
More importantly, it was a third straight winches year for Fortuna (3-1), which is building momentum again and showcased its remarkable depth against the Wildcats, with numerous younger players getting their first taste of the rivalry in the second half.
The Huskies have a very tough assignment this weekend, when they travel to play Tracy, one of the top Division-I programs in the San Joaquin Section.
The 2-2 Bulldogs have lost two straight, including falling 54-18 at Manteca over the weekend, but are ranked 197th in the state by MaxPreps.
Fortuna is currently ranked 237th.
5 — Panthers make it two in a row
The Panthers made it two in a row with a massive 69-6 win at Elsie Allen over the weekend.
It was another step forward for a program that has struggled in recent times, on and off the field, but one that continues to set a more competitive and promising tone going forward.
It’s also the first time the Panthers have won two straight since 2015, and sets them up nicely for a Little 4 campaign that kicks off in two weeks.
Even considering the quality of their past two opponents, it has been an impressive showing for Mack, which outscored the two teams 83-12, with the Panthers D giving up just one TD in the past nine quarters of play.
The Panthers have not had a winning season since 2008, and have not won a league title in a lot longer than that.
This season, however, there’s every reason to believe they could achieve both.