The Hoopa Valley Warriors saw a memorable season come to an end in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs on Saturday, falling 48-22 at No. 7 seed St. Helena.
The No. 11 Warriors had the better of exchanges in the opening half, and led 22-21 at the interval.
A mistake-filled start to the third quarter, however, saw the home team pull away for the win and advance to play at No. 2 Salesian Prep next weekend.
“We were going toe-to-toe with them in the first half,” Hoopa head coach William Simms said. “But we opened the third quarter with some fumbles and interceptions, and they capitalized on the momentum.”
Kimit Peters and Sam Jones each ran in for a touchdown for the Warriors, who closed out the season 6-5, while receiver Carlos Aguilar pulled in a TD catch from quarterback John Smith.
Senior Leonard Smith closed out his high school career with another strong performance and has been one of the Warriors most consistent performers down the stretch of the season.
“Leonard Smith played phenomenal,” Simms said. “We had two fake punts and he threw both of them, and he converted both of them. They were huge plays.”
Simms went on to give Leonard Smith the ultimate compliment.
“He closed out his career like a Hoopa High Warrior,” the coach said. “And the rest of the seniors did too.”
It was a breakthrough season for the Warriors, who posted their first winning record in seven years, while returning to the postseason for the first time since they last won the NCS championship in 2011.
They also got the program’s first win over league rivals Ferndale in 23 years, a streak of 42 games, and came within a win of claiming a first league title in as long as anyone can remember.
“It’s not what we wanted,” Simms said of the loss, “but you know what we sure changed Hoopa football this year.”