By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers have been taking advantage of their bye week to rest up a little and work on a few minor concerns, ahead of next week’s league opener.
The Loggers will kick off the Little 4 at home to St. Bernard’s on Saturday, Oct. 13, and will begin the new-look league as the consensus favorite.
But no one at Albee Stadium is getting carried away, and despite a confident air within the team, the Loggers are expecting a tough challenge from all three of their league opponents.
“I expect a battle every week from every team at this point,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “Really, we’ve got to be prepared every week for a battle.”
The Big 4 certainly features a competitive lineup this season, with a very new look.
St. Bernard’s moves up from the Little 4 to join Del Norte, Fortuna and Eureka, while both McKinleyville and Arcata are now playing in the Little 4.
And that should make for a much more even playing field, with this year’s four squads a combined 22-4 against other teams.
No room for error
This year the four teams also play each other just once each in league, a format that has been criticized on some fronts.
It certainly leaves room for little or no error, with the importance of every game heightened, but that’s not unusual for football compared to other sports, and it’s a schedule that White believes will benefit all four teams going forward.
“It doesn’t help anyone going into the playoffs,” White said. “The only thing it does is fill our schedule … It doesn’t help with seeding in the playoffs.”
The Loggers have traditionally played their league opponents just once each anyway, while the other teams have always matched up twice in what has been an unusual arrangement, but one that always seems to have worked.
Eureka, the only Division-III school in the area, needs to schedule as many competitive games as possible against bigger schools in order to impress the North Coast Section seedings committee for the playoffs.
Especially coming from an area where coaches have always felt their teams get overlooked to begin with.
Loggers expect to compete
The Loggers will begin the Big 4 as the favorites for a reason.
They are 7-0 on the season, the only remaining undefeated team in the area, and have comfortably dominated just about every opponent thus far, and some quality opponents at that.
They have overwhelmed teams in all phases of the game, with an experienced and deep lineup featuring an abundance of talent and few noticeable flaws.
But most impressive has been their mental approach to the game, something that has not gone unnoticed by their head coach.
“I think (what’s most impressive is) really our ability to respond and to get better at the things we’re asking them to get better at,” White said. “That’s the No. 1 thing, and No. 2, it’s our physicality. We are a physical team.”
Senior quarterback Cruz Montana continues to lead the way on offense, and has now completed 95-of-147 passes for 1,562 yards and 17 TDs, to just two interceptions.
On the ground, Robert Weir has 50 carries for 361 yards and four TDs, while teammate Alex Miller has 57 carries for 339 yards and four TDs. Weir also has three receiving TDs, while Miller has one.
Ryan Sylvia also has run for four TDs (as well as passing for one), while Lamarie Dunn has taken on a bigger role recently and has been impressing.
At receiver, Isley Tulmau leads the team with 26 catches for 405 yards and two TDs, while Tony Barreno has 16 receptions for 345 yards and six TDs.
Tulmau has been a major contributor in all phases of the game, and is a threat every time he touches the ball with 832 all-purpose yards, including 659 on offense alone.
The consistent Tyce Mullins also has been a force on both sides of the ball, pulling down nine catches for 201 yards and five TDs, finding the end zone more than once every two catches.
Mullins also leads the team with 72 tackles, including a remarkable 19 for a loss, to go with a pair of sacks.
Sophomore Chase Steubing has wasted little time settling into the lineup and now has four sacks and eight tackles for a loss, while senior Zander Young also has four sacks
Zach Reed leads the team with four interceptions.
Taking advantage of the bye
On the injury front, Miller suffered a sprained ankle in last weekend’s 34-0 win over Livermore at Alee Stadium, but will be ready to go for the league opener.
The Loggers, in fact, have been taking full advantage of the bye week to rest up some players and ease up at practice.
The players were given an extra couple of days off this week, while the practice sessions were shortened to just 90 minutes.
And the head coach is expecting his players to be fully ready to go when the Big 4 opens, as the Loggers aim to become the first repeat champion in the league since 2010, when they last did it.
“I don’t expect anything different to what we’ve been doing in the last seven games,” the head coach said. “I expect us to come out and compete and be physical and do all the things we’ve done all season long.”