By Ray Hamill — While this year’s Eureka High football team is known for a deep and talented senior class, they’re not alone in leading the way.
The Loggers, in fact, feature a core group of talented underclassmen who are playing far more than a supporting role in this year’s success.
“The junior class is not real big, but the guys we have are pretty good players,” Eureka head coach Jason White said.
The Loggers open the North Coast Section playoffs at home to De Anza on Friday night, and are the No. 2 seeds in Division III.
Last season, a junior-heavy team rolled to an 11-0 start before falling to Rancho Cotate by just three points.
It’s the only loss the Loggers have suffered in their past 22 games, an impressive statement from this year’s senior class.
But the juniors, and even some of the sophomores, have played a significant role in much of that run.
Leading the way
Leading the way among the underclassmen are players like Lamarie Dunn, Josiah Graham and Drew Jensen, as well as one of the team’s top overall performers this season, Miles Meynell.
Dunn is a returning all-conference selection at RB/WR/DB and has lived up to expectations, improving his game and becoming a dynamic option for offensive coordinator Garett Montana.
But Dunn brings more to the table than just that, and he has become one of the team’s leaders.
“He’s one of those guys who brings everything at practice,” White said. “He often sets the tone at practice.”
Jensen too has become an integral figure along the line, splitting time with senior Lari Racines.
“He’s going to be just a solid guy for us next year,” White said.
Graham’s emergence as one of quarterback Cruz Montana’s favorite targets is more of a surprise, after the junior receiver took his game to a whole new level this year.
“He was kind of a surprise for us coming out of camp,” White said of Graham, who has 27 receptions this year, just one behind team leader Isley Tulmau. “But he really bought into how we do things at the varsity level, and it’s made him a much better player.”
Meynell and Bell stand out
Perhaps the two most impressive of an impressive overall junior class are Meynell and quarterback Trevor Bell.
Bell is a very strong option behind Cruz Montana at quarterback, and has turned in strong performances in his many second-half appearances this season, garnering the attention of opposing Big 4 coaches.
Going forward, the Loggers shouldn’t see much of a drop off at QB when the excellent Cruz Montana goes on to college.
“He brings an athletic ability,” White said of Bell. “And he’s got a strong arm, and he’s extremely smart. He understands things very well.
“He just happens to be playing behind a guy who’s having a phenomenal year, a phenomenal career.”
Meynell, meanwhile, has taken his game to a whole new level this year, and has been a handful for opposing teams along the line, where he has quickly established himself as one of the best in the Big 4.
“Miles is just dominating right now,” White said. “Last year he was 210, this year’s he’s 240, and getting that extra mass has allowed him to be a very dominant player.”
Plenty of depth at skill positions
Other juniors have made their contributions as well, and have been patiently gaining experience behind a deep senior class.
Of the 20 players to either carry or receive the ball this season, nine are underclassmen, including juniors Willie Magana, Trent Morrow, Ruben Gutierrez, Diego Garcia and Josh Korenstein, and sophomore Shannon Henry.
Along the line, juniors Caleb Mowry, Dylan Fales and Gary Jiminez have all played their role, as has linebacker Jack Hill.
Chase Steubing leads an athletic sophomore class, and is the only one of them to feature substantially, starting all year along the defensive line.
“Chase is such an incredible player,” White said. “He’s a big weight room guy. He could bench press 230 pounds in the spring of his freshman year, and he’s got a motor that never stops.”
In short, the head coach described Steubing as “an unsung hero” on this year’s team, and no doubt he will be leading the way along the line for the next two years.
But even now, the sophomore class has an important role to play in this year’s playoff run.
“We brought up a handful of sophomores, and these guys are helping us out a lot at practice,” White said. “They’re all small and very quick kids, and that’s great for us simulating speed and quickness at practice.”
Friday night’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Albee Stadium.