By Ray Hamill — There will be more than just a league title up for grabs at the Redwood Bowl on Friday night.
There’s also North Coast Section positioning on the line, not to mention a possible home playoff game.
Arcata comes into the big Little 4 showdown leading the league at 4-1 (5-4 overall), with that one conference loss coming at Ferndale three weeks ago.
The Cats, meanwhile, are 3-2 in the L4 and 4-5 overall.
A win for the Wildcats will see them share the league crown with the Tigers, which would be their first in five years.
A win for the Tigers, on the other hand, would see them claim the league crown outright, and should give them a home playoff game at the Redwood Bowl next week.
Going into the season finale, the Tigers are currently ranked No. 9 among Division-V schools, one spot ahead of Hoopa and two ahead of Ferndale.
And that’s something Arcata head coach Jamal Jones has been impressing on his players this week, particularly his seniors, challenging them to make sure of one more home game.
Up for the challenge
Both teams are coming off wins a week ago, with Arcata defeating Hoopa 22-14 and Ferndale getting the better of McKinleyville 38-21.
And after beating the Tigers three weeks ago, the Cats are expecting the Arcata players to be up for the challenge this time around.
“Regardless of what happened at Ferndale a few weeks ago, they’re No. 1 in league,” Ferndale head coach Clint McClurg said of the Tigers. “They’re in that position right now. They’re a cohesive group of young men that work hard and work well together.”
Jones knows his players underperformed the last time and admits the Cats deserved to win that day.
“They just came out and wanted it,” the Arcata head coach said. “And they came out and played at a higher level than we did.”
This time around, the Arcata coaching staff will be looking for a better effort from the opening kickoff on.
“First of all, we have to come out and establish a physical presence,” Jones said. “Let them know it’s not going to be a replay of the last time. And we have to take care of the football. We had five turnovers the last day. And we have to communicate.”
The coach says he has been using the game film of the last game to motivate his players.
“On Monday we revisited the Ferndale film from the last time and used that as motivation every day at practice,” Jones said. “We had a solid, solid week of practice.”
Dynamic Arcata tandem
The Cats, meanwhile, will be focusing on stopping the dynamic Arcata running back tandem of Kien Mazzotti and Everett Halikas.
“I think for us it definitely starts on the defensive side of the ball,” McClurg said. “We’re going to have to get bodies to the football, and we’re going to have to play fast, and be physical. We’ve got to close out those cutback lanes … real solid defense is going to be key to our success.”
The Cats did receive a boost with the news that injured playmaker Landon Gomes is expected to play after being forced out of last week’s game early with a leg injury.
“He’s going to give it a go,” McClurg said of the junior running back/linebacker. “We’ll see how he responds, but he’s a competitor and he’s doing what he needs to do to prepare to play.”
The Cats, who have been battling a lot of injuries all season, will also be without juniors Nico Alejandre and Wyatt Hendrickson.
The Tigers have suffered their share of injuries this season, but appear to be as healthy as they’ve been in some time right now.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.