By Ray Hamill — The weekend in prep football had a little bit of everything it seems.
Two of the nine local teams suffered their first loss of the season, while three others made a significant statement, with one even defying the weight of expectations and history and coming away with one of its most satisfying wins in a long, long time.
And that doesn’t even include what is now clearly the best team on the North Coast.
Here then are five takeaways from week six in prep football …
1 — Massive win for Hoopa Valley
Hoopa Valley made a statement of intent in more ways than one with a big 36-26 win over Ferndale on Friday night.
It was the Warriors’ first win over the Wildcats since 1995, having failed to knock off a dominant Ferndale program in 42 straight games.
This was a huge achievement for head coach William Simms, his staff, and this group of Hoopa players.
The Warriors were battling more than just the Wildcats. They were battling history.
And when you’ve lost 42 straight to one team, it’s difficult not to lose again before you even take the field.
That was clearly not the case with this year’s team.
Simms has his players ready to go and focused, and there’s a belief about this group that you don’t often associate with Hoopa football.
It’s not just that they’ve won three of their first five games — they won nine total in the past six seasons combined — it’s how they’ve won them.
And more importantly, what stands out is how they’ve responded to their two losses, which both came against top programs.
But beating Ferndale for the first time since before the internet became popular wasn’t even the most noteworthy thing about Friday’s win.
Because the Warriors didn’t just beat their biggest nemesis, they laid down a marker for the rest of the Little 4.
They won’t settle for just beating Ferndale.
They want a league title, and they have every reason to believe they can achieve that this year.
2 — First losses for St. Bernard’s, Del Norte
Both St. Bernard’s and Del Norte fell from the perch of the undefeated this weekend, suffering their first losses against a couple of good teams.
The big question now is how will each respond?
Good teams lose games. It’s a part of football, and it doesn’t make them bad teams overnight.
It does, however, test their collective character, and we’ll know far more about St. Bernard’s and Del Norte over the next week or two than we ever could have found out in the first five.
St. Bernard’s had too many self-inflicted wounds to overcome on Saturday, turning the ball over four times, three in the first half alone, on the way to falling 47-14 at Marin Catholic.
Most teams will make you pay for repeated mistakes, and good teams will kill you off when you make them, which is exactly what Marin Catholic did, scoring on all three of the first-half turnovers and quickly pulling away in a tight game.
Del Norte, meanwhile, was dominated by Fortuna, losing 62-32 at Husky Field.
After an impressive win over a quality Mazama program last week, the Warriors were not expected to lose this badly.
The question now is whether Del Norte was a little over rated, or is Fortuna really that good?
The Warriors return home to face a struggling Trinity team (0-4) this coming week, and will be heavily favored to bounce back.
But in two weeks, they host Fortuna in Crescent City in both teams’ league opener, and how they respond in that showdown will tell us more about this year’s Del Norte team.
3 — Arcata appears ready to challenge for L4
With the amount of injuries they have suffered to frontline starters this season, it would have been easy to write the Tigers off coming into league play.
But this is clearly a resilient squad, and one that never lost its direction or focus under head coach Jamal Jones and his staff.
In Friday’s big 26-0 win over close rival McKinleyville, two things in particular stood out about the performance.
One, The Tigers have a dynamic playmaker with Kien Mazzotti.
The elusive junior running back broke a 0-0 deadlock in the third quarter with an impressive 57-yard touchdown run that the visitors never recovered from.
Mazzotti finished with three TD runs in the win, as the Tigers dominated the second half, and he could very well be the best running back in the Little 4.
But Mazzotti’s stellar performance wasn’t even the most impressive part of the win, with the Tigers’ defense stealing the show.
The Panthers have two quality running backs themselves, in Caleb Martinez and Kameron Conlin, but the Arcata D essentially shut them down.
Injuries to a couple of senior leaders — Nate Ballew and Conlin — didn’t help matters for the Panthers.
Conlin, who was stretchered off in the second half, will miss the next couple of weeks, but the good news is he did not suffer any serious injury.
He was, however, a big loss for Mack.
But then again, Arcata knows all about injury problems.
Defensively, the Tigers were outstanding on Friday, not allowing a single first down in the second half on the way to “pitching the shutout,” as Jones put it.
It wasn’t just that they got the shutout, the coach was happiest about, but rather the manner in which they achieved it.
Defensively, the Tigers are quick and play smart, and they don’t rely on any one or two players too much.
4 — Huskies answer the call — again
Much like Hoopa, the Fortuna Huskies have done a good job of responding from a pair of tough losses to top teams this season.
They did it in week two on the road at Galt, and they did it again over the weekend, winning 62-32 at home to Del Norte.
It wasn’t just the win, but the nature of it, as the Huskies thoroughly dominated a Warriors team that came in undefeated in their five previous games.
The Eureka Loggers are rightfully the favorites heading into league play in two weeks, but the defending state champion Huskies showed they can be extremely dangerous as well.
Few teams embrace the team concept as effectively as Mike Benbow’s Fortuna does, and it would only be surprising to see the Huskies not answer the call after a tough loss.
5 — Eureka passes toughest test
And speaking of the Big 4 favorites, the Eureka Loggers also answered the call on Friday, passing what many feel was their toughest test of the season.
No doubt Fortuna will have something to say about that, but in terms of rankings, no team on the Loggers’ schedule is more dangerous than the Lincoln High Fighting Zebras, who fell 34-22 at Albee Stadium.
The Loggers have been ruthlessly efficient for most of the season, in all three phases of the game, and in just about all aspects of each phase.
They had some penalty concerns against the Zebras, but once again it was a game they never appeared in danger of losing.
Eureka has taken a one-week-at-a-time approach to a season that began with very high expectations, and the Loggers have passed every test thrown at them so far with flying colors.