By Ray Hamill — If there were any concerns there would be a letdown for the Eureka Loggers when the playoffs rolled around, they answered them emphatically on Friday night.
It was all too easy for the Loggers, who scored 60 first-half points on the way to a commanding 66-20 victory over visiting De Anza at Albee Stadium.
The No. 2 seeds lived up to their billing, scoring touchdowns on eight of their 10 first-half possessions, while adding a ninth score on defense when linebacker Tyce Mullins recovered a fumble and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
“We wanted to kind of make a statement in the first game and we obviously met that goal,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “Now it’s on to the next round, and it will get tougher.”
Mullins had touchdowns on both sides of the ball, while Alex Miller and Lamarie Dunn each added a pair of first-half TDs, and Robert Weir, Isley Tulmau and Casey Sidoti each scored one.
“Offensively, we felt like we out-matched them up front,” White said. “And we kind of did what we wanted.”
Four TDs in 15 plays
The Loggers came out of the starting gates on fire, moving the ball on the Dons defense with relative ease and finding the end four times on their first 15 offensive plays.
Senior quarterback Cruz Montana ran the offense with precision, while an assortment of running backs and receivers racked up big yards behind another physically dominating performance from the ever-reliable Eureka offensive line.
“They play so physical, and play so hard the whole time,” White said of his line.
Miller opened the scoring less than three minutes in, capping a seven-play drive with a 13-yard scramble to the end zone.
Mullins had a big 24-yard reception on a screen pass to set up the score.
After forcing a quick three-and-out, keyed by a Miles Meynell sack on third down, the Loggers quickly marched 60 yards on three plays, with a 51-yard Tony Barreno reception setting up Dunn’s first score of the day on a seven-yard run.
Things got worse for the visitors on their next possession, with a high snap on a punt attempt giving Eureka possession at the 14, and the Loggers scored two plays later on Miller’s second TD run, this time from five yards.
Weir made it 28-0 for the home team on the next possession, running in from a yard out to cap a three-play drive that saw the running back complete a 44-yard pass to Barreno on a trick play.
Ethridge steps up
The visitors had little luck on offense or defense in that first half, but did score a pair of touchdowns on kickoff returns, one each by Jalen Henderson and Jojo Vaughn.
It mattered little, with their defense unable to stop anything the Loggers seemed to do, and the Loggers defense having its way with the Dons offense.
“We really played as a team,” White said.
Mullins was his usual dominating self on defense, with big games also from fellow linebackers Ryan Sylvia and Hunter Ethridge.
Ethridge started the year on fire but was slowed late in the regular season by an ankle injury. On Friday he appeared to be back to his best.
“Tonight he just exploded,” White said of Ethridge. “And we saw that guy we had at the beginning of the season.”
Consistency at quarterback
The Loggers carried a 28-7 advantage into the second quarter, before quickly adding to it.
Two plays into the period, Tulmau came up with an interception, returning it 38 yards to set up a seven-play, 54-yard drive, capped by a 17-yard Mullins TD reception from Montana.
The senior quarterback was as reliable as ever.
“The sign of a great quarterback is consistency week in week out, and that’s the sign of a great team,” White said. “He does a great job of preparing each week.”
Once again, things quickly proceeded to get worse for the visitors when the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Eureka’s Chase Steubing on a bizarre play at the visitor’s two-yard line, after the De Anza player just seemed to look at the ball and not react when it came his way.
Tulmau ran the ball in on the following play to give the home team its second TD in four seconds.
Dunn scored his second TD of the game on a 44-yard reception from Montana to cap a four-play drive and make it 47-7 with a little over five minutes still remaining in the half.
Just 34 seconds later, Mullins recovered a fumble and ran it 17 yards to the end zone for a 54-7 lead.
Right before halftime, Sidoti pulled in a 10-yard TD reception to make it 60-14.
There was some question as to whether Sidoti had fumbled the ball at the goal line, but it ended up being a moot point when the ball was recovered in the end zone by alert teammate Austin Maples.
Judge for yourself who got the score in the video highlights.