By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers will open the North Coast Section Division-V playoffs at home to Cloverdale at the Redwood Bowl on Friday night.
After winning the Little 4 crown outright a week ago, the No. 9 seed Tigers earned the right to host a first-round game against the No. 8 Eagles.
“I think it’s great for our community. It’s great for our fans,” Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said. “We’re excited to get that home game.”
Earlier this week, the game was moved forward 24 hours because of the Humboldt State game scheduled for the Redwood Bowl on Saturday.
That, however, hasn’t changed the Tigers’ preparation.
“It was a real good week of practice,” the head coach said. “A lot of mental preparation.”
Which is exactly what the Tigers will need against a versatile Cloverdale team that utilizes a lot of different formations.
“They throw a lot at you,” Jones said. “So you’ve got to be mentally locked in for four quarters.”
The big question for Arcata coming in is which Tigers offense will show up, the one that has been plagued by red-zone turnovers for much of the season, or the offense that put together a complete game last week.
With the league title on the line, not to mention a home playoff game, the Tigers’ offense played its best game of the year with a season-high 39 points against a solid Ferndale defense.
The Tigers have benefitted from a strong defensive unit all season, and if the offense can continue to impress like it did last week, this team will be a tough out in the NCS.
Key to that will be the play of the team’s dynamic running back duo, Kien Mazzotti and Everett Halikas.
The two have been a handful for opposing defenses all year, and bring a big-play ability to the offense.
Coupled with the improved play of junior quarterback Matt Robinson, as well as a recently-healthy group of receivers, and a line that has dominated league opponents, and the Tigers have the formula for a successful offense.
The problem has been turnovers, and usually in the red zone, with Arcata coming away empty handed way too often.
“We have to score and put pressure on opposing offenses,” Jones said.
Giving up big yardage
Playing into the Tigers’ strength on offense, the visiting Eagles have been giving up big yardage on the ground, and the home team will be hoping to take advantage of that.
And key to achieving that will be the battle in the trenches.
“They’re solid up front, and I think we’re pretty solid up front,” Jones said. “Whichever team controls the line of scrimmage, I believe, is going to win the game.”
The Tigers have plenty of momentum coming into the game, having now won six of their last seven games and closing out the season at 6-4, including a 5-1 record on the way to the Little 4 championship.
The Eagles, who play in the competitive North Central League-I are also 6-4 overall and were 4-3 in league.
The winner will move on to play at No. 1 seed Kelseyville in the second round next week, a team that knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs in a 51-6 rout two years ago.
And Jones and his senior players would like nothing more than a chance at a rematch.
On the injury front, the Tigers will be without sophomore lineman Jack Baca for Friday’s game.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.