By Ray Hamill — If week one was any indication, no one will be taking the Big 4 lightly in the second round of the North Coast Section playoffs this weekend.
All four teams will be action on Friday and Monday, two of them at home and two on the road, and don’t be surprised to see all four come away victorious.
The Loggers come into the postseason undefeated at 10-0 and will be heavily favored to defeat visiting De Anza in Division III, while in Division IV, the Big 4 could have as many as three teams in the semifinals if things go their way.
Del Norte is seeded No. 2 and on Friday welcomes No. 10 Justin-Siena to Crescent City, where the Warriors traditionally enjoy a big home-town advantage and are unbeaten this season.
It would be a surprise to see Del Norte lose at this stage, and the Warriors could be in line for a rematch with league rivals Fortuna next weekend.
That will depend on whether the No. 6 Huskies can win on the road at No. 3 Kennedy on Monday night, although the Fortuna players have plenty of playoff experience and won’t lack for confidence after last week’s big win at home to El Molino.
Kennedy will present a far bigger challenge than the Lions did, but you can be sure Mike Benbow’s Huskies will be prepared for the game.
The Huskies are one of the most consistent playoff teams in the entire NCS, making their 12th straight postseason appearance and currently riding a seven-game playoff winning streak.
As the lower seed on the road, they will be considered underdogs, but that’s a role they’ll relish.
No. 5 St. Bernard’s will also be considered underdogs, traveling to play No. 4 San Marin on Monday.
(Both the Fortuna and St. Bernard’s games were originally scheduled for Saturday but were pushed back two days due to the poor air quality throughout the section caused by this week’s wild fires.)
The Crusaders defeated the Mustangs at the same stage of the postseason last year, although they were the No. 1 seed then and hosted the game.
Still, they have several players from that squad back again this season and won’t lack for confidence going up against a team that has lost in the quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons.
They’re also coming off a huge win at home to Albany in the opening round, and will carry plenty of momentum into the big showdown.
Both Fortuna and St. Bernard’s are also coming off impressive weeks of practice, according to their coaches, and appear fired up for the challenge.
Eureka, meanwhile, has been the most impressive of all the Big 4 teams this season, and will be expected to carry that into the postseason after enjoying a first-round bye.
This is group of players that appeared playoff ready by the end of September, and a group that local fans expect to come storming out of the gate on Friday night.
They should have too much talent and depth for the visitors on what should also be a great playoff atmosphere at Albee Stadium, never an easy place for opposing teams to play.
It should be a fantastic weekend of action for the Big 4, and don’t be surprised to see all four teams still standing tall going into next week.