By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers have done everything they can possibly do.
No matter what happens at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, no one can ever deny them that.
On Saturday night, they improved to 12-0 on the season, defeating a previously undefeated Las Lomas team, the best team they have faced all year, by a score of 21-0.
In truth, this game wasn’t even as close as that.
It was a showdown the Loggers were never in any danger of losing after taking an early 7-0 lead on an inspirational 41-yard Zach Reed TD run.
Their defense was that good.
Better, in fact, than they have been all season, with senior Isaak Gutierrrez playing like a senior who didn’t want it to end.
Unfortunately for him and his teammates, that option is now out of their hands, and instead of playing for a North Coast Section Division-III championship, a coin toss will decide whether or not the Loggers move on.
The coin flip will take place at the NCS office on Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. deciding whether Cardinal Newman or Eureka gets to play a NorCal regional game next weekend, with a trip to the state championship on the line.
Gutierrez and his teammates could be back at Albee Stadium for another game, if they win the coin flip and get the higher seed, or this could have been the end of the line for this phenomenal Eureka team.
Either way, they did everything they could on Saturday.
Deepest squad ever?
This is without doubt one of the best teams the school has ever produced, and quite possibly the deepest ever squad.
On Saturday they lived up to the billing — mostly — in very difficult conditions.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Loggers were simply superb, barely missing a tackle all night despite the extreme conditions.
In 12 games this season against some top quality opponents, only one team (Lincoln) has come within 20 points of Eureka.
Las Lomas was supposed to be a team to really challenge them, but the visitors failed to ignite on offense, managing just one first down until late in the game when the contest was already long decided.
A trio of potential D-I recruits managed practically nothing between them, and while it’s true the conditions played a part in that, so too did the Eureka defense.
Being more used to these conditions certainly played into the Loggers’ hands.
“For us, there’s a mental toughness dealing with these elements,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “It’s about experience, and our kids all grew up in this stuff.”
It didn’t entirely play into the home team’s hands, with five fumbles lost on offense in the first half alone.
If it wasn’t for the turnovers, the game would have been out out of reach before halftime, and thanks to the Eureka defense stepping up when it had to, none of them proved costly.
Two of the turnovers came deep in Knights territory, with the Loggers driving and on the verge of scoring, and two others came deep inside their own half.
“I honestly wasn’t worried,” White said.
Not the way the defense was playing.
Lamarie Dunn also came up with an interception to end a Knights possession late in the first half, with the visitors careful in possession for most of the night, but forced to punt time and again.
Alex Miller and Robert Weir each had a good night running the ball for Eureka, and continued to pound the ball, finding the end zone in the third quarter.
The Loggers received the ball to start the second half, and despite two more fumbles early, both of which they recovered, they were able to march 70 yards on 12 plays, with Miller scoring from 10 yards out.
Just as importantly, the drive took seven and a half minutes off the clock and all but took the wind out of the visitors’ sails.
If that didn’t, the very next play did, when Tony Barreno’s kickoff bounced off a Las Lomas player and back into the kicker’s hands, giving the home team possession right back.
And they made it count a few minutes later, when Ryan Sylvia found the end on a three-yard run to all but end the game.
A three-possession lead was more than the Eureka defense would need.