Eureka

CIF Preview — Just ‘another game’ for Eureka football

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com

By Ray Hamill — We’ve been saying all season long how this group of Eureka players is special. Now it’s time for them to go out and show it on the biggest stage of all.

On Friday night at McKinleyville High School, the Loggers will play in their first CIF Regional playoff game against Menlo-Atherton, with a place in a state bowl game on the line, and a slice of impressive history up for grabs.

And for a team that is 12-0 this year, and a group of players that are 23-1 dating back to the start of last season, this is what they’ve been building toward all season, and for many of them it’s what they’ve been building toward for their entire careers.

They didn’t get a chance to give Eureka High a fourth North Coast Section title, but they do have the opportunity to give the school a first state championship.

And it all begins this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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Athletic and big

Standing in the Loggers’ way is an impressive Menlo-Atherton team that is 12-2 on the year and fresh off a Central Coast Section title.

“They have athletes, and they have some big guys,” Eureka junior lineman Miles Meynell said. “Obviously, they’re good. Any team at this point is good.”

The Bears feature a number of top prospects, but that’s nothing new for a Loggers defense that has dominated quality opponents all season and handled a number of future D-I college players.

“At first glance, you see all the star players they have and all that, but it really hasn’t affected us much,” Eureka senior lineman John Foster said. “We know if we do our stuff we’re going to come out with a win.”

Senior lineman Isaak Gutierrez echoed the sentiment.

“I expect them to come out hard. They’re big and they’ve got some talent,” he said. “We’ve just got to work hard, play hard.”

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Answering the call

The Loggers got here by defeating a previously unbeaten Las Lomas team in wet muddy conditions at Albee Stadium last Saturday night, and then winning a coin flip against Cardinal Newman on Sunday morning to advance to the state games.

So far this season, the Loggers have answered every call on the field, with a balanced and extremely deep offense, orchestrated to near perfection by quarterback Cruz Montana, and backed by a dominating defense.

Only one team all year (Lincoln) has come within 20 points of the Loggers.

“We’ve got to keep playing defense like we have all season, and we’ve got to make sure (the Bears) don’t get too comfortable, and make sure their quarterback doesn’t get too comfortable,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “And we’ve just got to execute (on offense) like we have been.”

If there is one area the Eureka players need to clean up from a week ago, it’s the fumbles, which ended five of six drives during the first half against Las Lomas.

Much of that, however, can be put down to the terrible conditions.

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‘Everyone’s focused. We all know the goal’

As always it seems, the Loggers have had a productive week of practice, and certainly a busy one.

After only finding out for sure that they were moving on early Sunday, the players have had just four days to prepare for the Bears.

But it’s been a productive four days.

“We don’t have a lot of bad practices,” White said. “That’s pretty evident in the way we play.”

The players too feel they’re ready for the challenge.

“Everyone’s focused. We all know the goal,” Foster said. 

Gutierrez, who turned in an inspired performance along the line last week, said the players are looking forward to the opportunity.

“It’s a new challenge,” he said. “We’re just excited to prove ourselves.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the Loggers will be the size and physicality of the Bears, the deepest and biggest squad Eureka has faced all season.

The Loggers, however, counter that with some size of their own.

“Their size is not a terrible mismatch for us,” White said. “We’re big too.”

Plenty of depth

The Loggers are also deep, and rotate several players along the defensive line without losing any production.

In addition, they have a plethora of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, with 16 different players accounting for 34 takeaways this season.

In short, they have a lot of playmakers and make it difficult for opposing teams to focus in on any one player, on either side of the ball.

And to win this week’s big game and advance to the state championship, the Loggers will be looking to just keep doing what they’ve been doing all year.

“I think we have to play the Loggers brand of football,” Meynell said. “We have to play hard, execute, and we have to play our football.”

In other words?

“It’s just another game,” White said. “Another opponent.”

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  1. MaxPreps Mobile Header Logo

    Bay Area High School Football Rankings
    Staff Report | MaxPreps.com
    Thursday, December 6, 2018
    Who’s up and who’s down

    RECAP: LIBERTY VS. DE LA SALLE 2018
    1:27
    RECAP: CLAYTON VALLEY VS. LIBERTY 2018
    2:31
    The power rankings have experienced a modest tune-up after last week’s playoff battles. We’ll dive into that and more in this week’s report.

    Can’t Touch This
    King’s Academy got a 41 – 14 win over Carmel last week, and a key reason for the win was senior Bralyn Lux. Lux earned three touchdowns and 331 yards rushing the ball. That performance made Lux one of the best players in the power rankings last week.

    A
    It was a battle of top-notch squads when Valley Christian (3rd in the power rankings) took on Saint Francis (5th) last week. Valley Christian battled it out with Saint Francis for a well-earned 31 – 30 overtime win. Valley Christian and Saint Francis were a much more even match than Valley Christian’s previous opponent, giving the fans a heck of a game.

    Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
    De La Salle has been an offensive powerhouse for six straight weeks after the team lit up the scoreboard again last week. The final score between it and Liberty was a 42 – 7 blowout in De La Salle’s favor. Liberty had come in flaunting an aggressive defense allowing an average of only 12 points per game, but that obviously didn’t scare off De La Salle. With 12 consecutive wins, De La Salle boasts the longest winning streak of any team in the rankings.

    No Stoppin ‘Em
    69. That was the combined point total for California and Freedom when they went head to head last week, and it set the benchmark for all power ranking teams. Freedom won an extremely close contest against California with a final score of 35 – 34. As a result, Freedom rose one spot in the power rankings.

    MaxPreps Metro Rank School Next Game Movement
    1 De La Salle vs. Mater Dei —
    2 Liberty vs. Valley Christian —
    3 Valley Christian vs. Liberty +4
    4 Pittsburg — —
    5 Saint Francis vs. Del Oro -2
    6 Cardinal Newman — -1
    7 Clayton Valley Charter — +1
    8 Menlo-Atherton vs. Eureka +4
    9 Freedom vs. San Ramon Valley +1
    10 Bishop O’Dowd vs. Marin Catholic +6
    11 Wilcox vs. Capital Christian -5
    12 San Ramon Valley vs. Freedom +3
    13 Rancho Cotate — -4
    14 Serra — -1
    15 Monte Vista — +2
    16 California — -2
    17 Campolindo — -6
    18 Antioch — —
    19 Marin Catholic vs. Bishop O’Dowd +4
    20 Sacred Heart Prep — -1
    21 King’s Academy — +8
    22 Palo Alto — -2
    23 Burlingame — +8
    24 McClymonds vs. Aptos -2
    25 Las Lomas — -4

  2. Common Opponent Lincoln tied to WILCOX/ CC game above.

    Lincoln lost in league to Placer by 4, Placer lost to CC by 3 last week.

    Wilcox lost to MA last week in open division, (Why WILCOX gets to play again )

    Rio Linda was 2nd place team in Lincoln’s league

    They play West Valley which beat Sutter 7-0

    Sutter lost to Cardinal Newman by 24 to open season

    Sutter beat Enterprise by 29, but lost to Shasta by 37 (47-10)

    Synopsis – very winable game for EHS…teamwork continuity and execution.!

  3. The Mercury News ☰ Menu

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    Down 21, Menlo-Atherton rallies to stun Wilcox in CCS Open I final
    Darren Sabedra
    PUBLISHED: November 30, 2018 at 11:59 pm | UPDATED: December 1, 2018 at 7:44 am
    Categories:High School Sports, Latest Headlines, Sports

    Menlo-Atherton’s Feleti Malupo (2), Daniel Heimuli (5) and Noa Ngalu (52), from left, celebrate as they hoist the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship football trophy after beating Wilcox 33-28 at Independence High in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
    CLICK HERE if you are having a problem viewing the photos or video on a mobile device

    SAN JOSE — Noa Ngalu paraded around the field in jubilation, shouting that defenses do win championships. Linebacker Daniel Heimuli, amid the celebration, said it felt as if his team just won state.

    Others danced, posed for photos and waved a giant team flag.

    Make no mistake, what unfolded Friday night at Independence High will be remembered for some time.

    Menlo-Atherton won the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship, overcoming a 21-point deficit to stun previously unbeaten and top-seeded Wilcox 33-28.

    Troy Franklin — the state’s top-rated college prospect in the Class of 2021 — scored the winner on a 17-yard run with 3:33 left that was all freelance.

    “It’s exactly how we drew it up,” M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said. “Toss to Troy, miss three blocks, have him cutback, juke a kid and then break a tackle and cut back into the end zone. Troy’s a special football player.”

    M-A (11-2) has a lot of special players. Ngalu, a Washington commit, was a handful in the trenches. Heimuli, whose list of offers includes Alabama and Washington, flew around the field from his linebacker position as if he were magnetized to the ball.

    Freshman quarterback Matt MacLeod came off the bench in the second half and gave M-A the spark it needed.

    Another freshman, defensive back Jalen Moss, clinched the championship with an interception along the M-A sideline, the last of Wilcox’s four turnovers in the fourth quarter and seven for the game.

    Moss played J.V. football this season and was already moving on to J.V. basketball when Ravipati talked him in to joining the team.

    “We were low on receivers and DBs and I was like, ‘Hey, man, I really think you can come in and help,’” Ravipati said. “Thankfully he listened ane thankfully the JV basketball coach was kind enough to let him come out with us.”

    M-A’s bid for its second Open I title in three years did not look good midway through the second half. The Bears trailed 28-14 at halftime, and the score did not budge in the third quarter as Wilcox dominated time of possession with its veer offense.

    It looked even more grim for second-seeded M-A after Wilcox made a stop inside the 20 early in the fourth quarter.

    But then came the turnovers.

    A fumble gave the Bears the ball at the Wilcox 22. MacLeod connected with Jake Wang for 21 yards to the 1, and Deston Hawkins ran into the end zone on the next snap to make it 28-21.

    Two plays into its next series, Wilcox lost another fumble.

    M-A took over at the Chargers’ 45 and scored five plays later when MacLeod threw a 29-yard pass to Justin Anderson on third-and-6. Wilcox blocked the PAT to maintain a 28-27 edge with 6:07 remaining.

    But it could not hang on.

    “You just can’t fumble,” Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

    Wilcox (12-1) threw three consecutive incomplete passes on its next possession and punted. Anderson’s return gave M-A the ball at the Chargers’ 31 with 5:30 to go.

    A few plays later, Franklin did his improvisation, somehow finding his way to the end zone to give the Bears their first and only lead.

    “I had to put my team on my back and get in the end zone,” the sophomore said. “The pitch was a little behind me, so I had to stop and slow down my speed. I saw a defender right there, and I had to make a fast move. I did that and open field from there.”

    Wilcox still had plenty of time to reclaim the advantage. But after a pass interference call moved the Chargers to the M-A 46, Anderson stepped in front of a receiver on a slant route to make a spectacular interception.

    When Wilcox got the ball back at its 19 with 1:41 left, Moss sealed the win with another pick.

    “We have young guys wanting to play,” Heimuli said. “When they went in, all I was saying was, ‘Step up, guys. Step up, young boys. You’re on the big boy team now.’ And that’s what happened. This is amazing.”

    The game started perfectly for Wilcox. The Chargers recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage and turned the gift into a quick 7-0 lead.

    Paul M. Rosa — the coach’s son — finished the short drive with a 6-yard run.

    Wilcox took the extended route on its next series, going 96 yards in nine plays for a 14-0 advantage. Gabe Herrera had runs of 33, 19 and 15 yards along the way, setting himself up for a 2-yard scoring plunge.

    The lead grew to 21-0 early in the second quarter when Herrera scored from the 3. Alex Adame’s 20-yard pass to Rosa on third-and-7 from the 23 preceded the touchdown.

    But the big lead was nearly gone in a blink.

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    De’Marshaun Payton ran for 30 yards and Jaeden Barker followed with a 44-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-7.

    Moments later, Heimuli tipped a pass to himself for an interception and returned the ball 10 yards to the Wilcox 12. On the next play, Jack Alexander threw a touchdown pass to Franklin to pull M-A to within 21-14.

    Ngalu forced a fumble on Wilcox’s next possession, and the Bears were suddenly 20 yards from tying the score.

    But Wilcox kept M-A out of the end zone and an errant field-goal attempt kept the Bears’ deficit at seven.

    Adame’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Rosa with 1:52 left in the half gave Wilcox a 28-14 lead. The score stayed that way until the wild ride of a fourth quarter.

    Then came the M-A celebration.

    “I’m so happy,” Ngalu said as he shouted that defense does win championships. “That’s all I got to say. I just love my brothers. If it wasn’t for them, we would have never had this. We play till the last minute.

    “We the champions now.”

    PLAYOFFS? WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED

    It’s high school football playoff season, and our team is ready to provide can’t-miss stories from all the big games. So you don’t miss the action, we’ve got a deal that will keep you apprised of every dramatic twist and turn along the way. For just 12 cents a day for a year, you can have access to all the digital content at mercurynews.com and eastbaytimes.com. You just need to sign up at one of these two links: Mercury News or East Bay Times.

    Related Articles
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    CIF football: Valley Christian, Liberty in the spotlight
    CIF football: How Colorado trip prepared M-A for trek to Eureka
    CIF football: De La Salle aims to change script against Mater Dei
    Football: 2018 all-SCVAL De Anza Division teams

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  4. Palo Alto Online
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    Uploaded: Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 12:00 pm
    Menlo-Atherton keeping its focus on NorCal football game
    by Glenn Reeves/Palo Alto Online Sports

    After the events of the last few days Menlo-Atherton football coach Adhir Ravipati is all in on keeping his team’s focus on the game ahead, the Northern California 3-AA bowl game against Eureka at McKinleyville High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

    Last Friday the Bears won their second Central Coast Section Open Division I championship in the last three years in almost surreal fashion, rallying from a 28-14 deficit with a 19-point burst in a five-minute span of the fourth quarter to beat Wilcox 33-28. Freshman quarterback Matt MacLeod came off the bench to spark the comeback, Division I skill-position recruits Justin Anderson and Troy Franklin made big plays and the M-A defense came up with four fourth-quarter turnovers.

    Then on Sunday the team learned it was being sent over 300 miles to Eureka, which won a coin flip to extend its season, for its NorCal playoff game, while Wilcox was getting a home game against Capital Christian of Sacramento.

    Monday the all-Peninsula Athletic League selections came out and M-A players, as expected, were well represented. Lineman and University of Washington-commit Noa Ngalu was named Bay Division MVP. Highly-recruited linebacker Daniel Heimuli was named defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season. Franklin, Anderson, OL David Tafuna, RB Deston Hawkins, LB Joe Posthauer and DB Malik Johnson were all first-team choices.

    On Monday evening the CIF announced the game with Eureka was being moved to McKinleyville, 15 miles north of Eureka, on account of poor field conditions at Eureka High.

    A lot of distractions. So Ravipati has attempted to remain steadfast in getting his team ready to play a 12-0 Eureka team with a Montana at quarterback — Cruz Montana, who has thrown 25 touchdown passes and only three interceptions this season.

    “He’s an athletic kid with a good arm,’’ Ravipati said. “He’s accurate and can throw on the run. They’re a base Wing-T team that runs a lot of spread. They’re well-rounded, real multiple, a big challenge for our defense. They’re a little different from what we’ve seen so far this year.’’

    As far as the M-A quarterback situation is concerned, junior Jack Alexander won the job in pre-season practice but has only played five games due to injuries. He started the Wilcox game at less than full strength and Ravipati made the unusual move of bringing in a freshman quarterback in a CCS championship game.

    “Jack was playing through an injury,’’ Ravipati said. “He’s a big reason we’re here. I tried something different to try to get a spark. Football is a game of momentum. Matt did a great job and I’m proud of how Jack handled it. He was doing everything he could to coach Matt up.’’

    MacLeod completed 10 of 18 passes for 116 yards.

    On Tuesday Ravipati said he was not ready to name a starter for the Eureka game.

    “I’m trying to temper expectations,’’ Ravipati said. “I want to see how Jack feels and let them compete in practice.’’

    The defense came up with seven turnovers in all against Wilcox, three fumbles and four interceptions, the big reason a comeback from a 21-0 first-half deficit was possible.

    “We practiced trying to rake the football out,’’ Ravipati said. “And we thought that if they were forced to throw that we would match up well and get some turnovers through the air.’’

    Anderson intercepted two passes, caught a touchdown pass from MacLeod and had a 17-yard punt return that set up the winning touchdown. Franklin caught a touchdown pass from Alexander in the first half that was set up by a Heimuli interception, and scored the winning touchdown with 3:33 left on a 17-yard run after taking a pitch from MacLeod.

    “Big-time players,’’ Ravipati said. “In the playoffs you need stars to play like stars.’’

    The team will travel to Eureka on Thursday.

    “We’ll practice Thursday evening and stay the night,’’ Ravipati said. “On Friday we’ll do a study hall, a film session and a walk-through before the game.’’

    It’s a long trip. But the Bears made an even longer one during the regular season, going to Colorado to play the top team in that state, Valor Christian. And if they can come out on top of Eureka they will come back home to host the 3-AA state championship game next week against Lincoln of San Diego, most likely at Foothill College.

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