By Ray Hamill — For the Eureka Loggers, the 2018 season begins in earnest this weekend.
That’s not to take from what has been a memorable regular season – Eureka’s second straight undefeated campaign – and a year that saw this team thrill us with some outstanding football on both sides of the ball.
But at the outset of the season few people would have doubted the Loggers would be in this position heading into the second weekend in November, and this team’s ultimate legacy was always going to be decided by what they achieve in the postseason.
Make no mistake about it, this is a squad arguably as good as any the school has ever seen — their record over the past 22 games would suggest that — and a group of players that have taken care of their business in a professional and veteran-like manner.
In addition to their undeniable talent, they boast experience and plenty of depth, not to mention an exceptionally experienced coaching staff and plenty of leaders on the field of play.
It’s unlikely this group of players will come out ill-prepared, and Friday night at Albee Stadium will be a very tough challenge for the visiting Dons.
Plenty of momentum
The Loggers (10-0) are seeded No. 2 in the Division-III bracket behind only No. 1 Cardinal Newman, and had a bye in the opening round of action a week ago.
No. 7 De Anza comes into the game at 6-5 on the year, including a 4-2 mark that saw them finish second to Pinole Valley in the Tri-County League – Stone, having dispatched of No. 12 seed Tennyson 45-22 last week.
They also have plenty of momentum heading into the big showdown, having won five straight and scoring an average of 49 points a game in that span.
“They’re putting up some points,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “They’re athletic and they’ve got four kids that are extremely fast. The big thing they have is speed.”
The good news for the Loggers is that one of those four speedsters, a 6-foot-3 big-play receiver, will miss the game with a suspension, after getting ejected late in last weekend’s game.
But the Dons will have other players available to pick up the slack, and White isn’t expecting any pushovers in the postseason, where the competition gets a little tougher every week.
“Now you’re up against the best of the best, and usually the best teams have speed,” the head coach said.
To counter that, White will be looking for a disciplined performance from his players, on a defense that been suffocating opponents all year.
Led by middle linebacker Tyce Mullins and featuring a ton of playmakers, the Eureka defense has allowed an average of just 12.3 points a game this year, most of them coming in the second half against back-ups.
And don’t expect the coaches to change things up much at this stage, especially not with a formula that appears to be working just fine.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that you’ve got to stick with what got you here,” White said. “You’ve got to stick with your basic game plan and just tweak it here and there.”
Offensively, the Loggers have been on Cruz control for much of the season, excuse the pun, with senior quarterback Cruz Montana calling the shots and directing a multi-weapon offense with precision.
The second-year starter has passed for 2,357 yards and 23 touchdowns, to just three interceptions, and was fourth best among all NCS quarterbacks in all eight divisions with a passer rating of 138.8 during the regular season.
He has numerous weapons at his disposal, including bruising running backs Alex Miller and Robert Weir, as well as home run playmakers like Lamarie Dunn, Isley Tulmau, Tony Barreno and Josiah Graham, among a host of others.
And White will be looking for more of the same on the offensive side of the ball as well.
“We’ve got to execute, and we’ve got to protect the football,” the head coach said. “As long as we play our game and execute and take care of our business, we’ll be fine.”
Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to play either No. 11 Terra Linda or No. 3 Las Lomas.