By Ray Hamill — From the “things we don’t say often” file, Hoopa Valley football is getting set to host Arcata in a top-of-the-table clash this weekend.
The two teams got the Little 4 off to a winning start last week, and each comes into Friday’s key showdown riding a two-game winning streak.
Each has also weathered some early-season storms and now appears poised to make a serious challenge for the league title.
The Tigers have had to overcome a ton of early-season injuries, but are now as healthy as they have been since opening weekend.
Last week, they got the better of McKinleyville 26-0 in both teams’ league opener, taking advantage of a dominating defensive performance and some nifty running from elusive running backs Kien Mazzotti and Everett Halikas, who combined for the four Arcata touchdowns,
“We know Mazzotti is a good runner, and I think Halikas, he’s a good running back,” Hoopa head coach William Simms said. “And I know they’re going to be physical.”
Warriors present a challenge
The Warriors themselves will present a challenge for the Tigers’ defense with their own stable of running backs, which in recent weeks has been balanced by an evolving passing attack.
Last week, the Warriors utilized that offensive balance, along with a dominating performance from the defensive line, to knock off perennial powerhouse Ferndale for the first time in 23 years.
It was also the first time Hoopa has won two straight games since 2011.
The win was a huge boost for a program that has struggled to compete in recent years, and one that was well received by the community.
The players, however, appear to have responded in the perfect manner, treating it like any other win and not getting caught up in the excitement.
“They handled the win well,” Simms said. “They haven’t been arrogant or anything like that. They’ve just been like, we’ve got Arcata next, we got work to do.”
And that’s something that has carried over onto the practice field.
“I thought we had a very, very good week of practice,” the head coach added. “(Wednesday) was probably one of our best practices.”
The Warriors will welcome back a pair of injured players who sat out last week, running back/linebacker Bob Campbell and lineman David Ruiz.
And Simms will be looking for his players to continue to do what they’ve been doing in the past couple of games.
“We need to continue to play team football,” the head coach said. “It’s working.”
At 3-2, the Warriors not only have the best overall record of any Little 4 team, but they have also matched their best single-season win total from the past six years.