By Ray Hamill — No surprise to see three of the Big 4 teams dominate once again over the weekend, although things are about to get a little more challenging for each.
Here then are five takeaways from this past weekend in prep football …
1 — Del Norte gets statement win
The Del Norte Warriors had rolled over lesser opposition through the opening four weeks of the season, leaving some to doubt their credentials going forward.
But over the weekend they knocked off a very strong Mazama program in commanding fashion, winning 28-7 at Crescent City.
Even considering it was just Mazama’s second game of the season — and that does make a difference — it was still a convincing win.
The Warriors, now 5-0, have answered every call this season and without doubt are a far more competitive outfit than they were a year ago.
They possess a dynamic dual offensive threat in Sebastian Puente and Ethan Price, and a line that has grown — figuratively and literally — since last season.
Whether they are ready to challenge the top teams in the Big 4 remains to be seen, but Friday’s win suggests they’re closer than we might have thought.
2 — Eureka D a force to be reckoned with
The Loggers pretty much tick all the boxes this year.
They possess a dynamic offense, great coaching, superb veteran leadership, and the ability to adjust to whatever challenge is thrown their way.
But the one box they tick more emphatically than any of the others is their team defense.
The unit was once again in dominating form over the weekend, shutting down a good Shasta team on the road and leading the way to another comfortable win, 35-14.
As a unit, the Loggers possess a perfect balance of physicality and finesse.
They stuff opponents at the point of attack and kill them with their big-play capability.
Since a sloppy all-around first half against Ukiah in week two, Eureka has been unstoppable, outscoring opponents 173-28.
And these are quality teams they are beating up on, going 10-2 combined in their other games.
In those three-and-a-half games, the starting Eureka defense has allowed just two touchdowns.
Led by the inspirational Tyce Mullins, the Loggers have a plethora of playmakers on that side of the ball.
The rest of the Big 4 is going to have their hands full moving the ball with any consistency when league play rolls around.
3 — St. Bernard’s gets set for more challenging second half
The easier part of their schedule is now over for the Crusaders, as they get set for a far tougher stretch run against far deeper opponents.
To suggest the Crusaders have had any of their games handed to them thus far is, of course, unfair.
They have dominated in every game, while showcasing an assortment of talent on both sides of the ball, and essentially ending every game well before halftime.
Quarterback Will Omey has been one of the two most explosive players in the area — along with Price — leading the way on a potent offense, that is both physical and well balanced.
But things are going to get tougher moving forward for the Crusaders, as they prepare for Eureka and the rest of the Big 4, as well as a tough assignment at highly-ranked Marin Catholic this weekend, and a long road trip to play Tri-Cities Prep in Washington next week.
The Crusaders will be a handful for anyone, and they’re going to be prepared from a coaching standpoint.
A win this week would be a big statement with league play just two weeks away.
4 — Hoopa Valley gets back on track
The Hoopa Valley Warriors got back on track with a big 44-6 win at Trinity, a team that had dominated them in recent times.
The win was a nice way to respond from the previous weekend’s rout at a very good St. Bernard’s, and showed the right mental attitude from a group of players that have every right to believe they can win a first league crown in a long, long time.
The 2-2 Warriors are definitely showing signs of improvement week to week, and have a nice balance going with their aerial attack and run game over the past two weeks.
Add to that a developing physicality along the line, and the Warriors are perfectly poised heading into league play.
They open the Little 4 at home to Ferndale on Friday night.
And speaking of which …
5 — This year’s Little 4 is about as wide-open as it’s ever been
After decades of dominance by Ferndale and St. Bernard’s, realignment this year has evened the playing field substantially, and it’s really anyone’s guess who can win it all.
We’ll find out over the next five weekends, with five league games apiece between McKinleyville, Arcata, Ferndale and Hoopa.
All four have reason for optimism.
Ferndale is always a threat when it comes to league play, and will relish the opportunity to move on from a pair of tough contests against very good teams the past two weeks.
Hoopa, as I mentioned, has the balance in attack and the physicality to cause any other L4 team concerns, while Arcata will be dangerous moving forward after enduring a series of early-season injuries and seeing a young group of players get invaluable playing experience against bigger and deeper opponents.
McKinleyville, meanwhile, has put together back-to-back wins and is arguably the most in-form of all four league rivals.
The action gets under with a pair of games on Friday night. In addition to the matchup at Hoopa, Arcata will host McKinleyville at the Redwood Bowl.