Nine predictions for the new prep football season


Photos by Ray Hamill/ – The Loggers open the 2019 football season at home against Placer on Friday night.

By Ray Hamill — The 2019 prep football season officially got under way on Thursday night when defending North Coast Section Division-IV champion Fortuna traveled to Healdsburg to take on Cardinal Newman.

And as always, there are plenty of questions and talking points ahead of the new campaign, and about the only certainty going in is that something unexpected is going to happen somewhere along the line.

Here then are nine predictions ahead of the new season.

1 — Ferndale will restore some Wildcat pride

After back-to-back losing campaigns, including finishing a disappointing 4-7 a year ago, the Ferndale Wildcats will be looking to get back to winning ways in 2019.

They won’t disappoint.

2 — Seven of the nine local teams will make the playoffs

Sorry, I can’t tell you which seven. I don’t want to give away all my secrets.

With the number of NCS playoff teams reduced from 69 in 2018 to 56 under the new format this year, that won’t be easy to achieve, but I have a feeling it will be another bumper year for the local programs.

3 — The new NCS format will be kind to the H-DNL

Speaking of the new playoff format — which features eight brackets of eight teams instead of the recent 16-team brackets — you can expect it to be kind to the local teams.

Eureka dropping to Division 5 is great news for the Loggers, who should legitimately compete for a section title, as could Del Norte.

Likewise with St. Bernard’s in Division 6, a bracket the Crusaders should feel quite comfortable competing in, alongside the Arcata Tigers, who will also fancy their chances to compete for a section title.

In Division 7, Hoopa and Ferndale will also feel they have an opportunity if they can stay healthy.

South Fork, with a junior-heavy team, is probably a year away from competing for an eight-person title.

4 — The St. Bernard’s Big 4/Little 4 debate will not go away

Do the Crusaders belong in a Little 4 they have dominated in recent times? Or do they belong in a Big 4 against far larger schools and rosters?

Either way, two things remain certain.

One, the debate will not go away, and two, the St. Bernard’s players are going to go out and compete and won’t complain no matter who they have to play.

If only there was a Medium 4.

5 — Trevor Bell will have a big season

This kid should be fun to watch this year behind a line of players hungry to prove themselves.

6 — Both the B4 and L4 will go down to the wire

Whether St. Bernard’s belongs in the Big 4 or not, one thing the critics can’t deny is that it has made for a much more competitive Little 4, with the championship going down to the wire last season.

Expect more of the same in 2019, as well as in the Big 4, where the Eureka Loggers have come back to the pack a little and shouldn’t dominate the way they have in recent years.


7 — The Del Norte Warriors will have a big season

They may have lost some top talent from a year ago, but the Warriors return the majority of their linemen and that will give them a foundation for success in 2019.

A new head coach adds intrigue to the situation, but with much of the staff back the transition should be smooth.

Look for the Warriors to have a big season and to compete for a section title.

8 — Arcata will win the Little 4

It should be an exciting race, and one I expect to go down to the wire, with the quality up throughout the conference this year.

But the Tigers are probably too deep and too physical for the rest of the Little 4, and they’ll be tough to stop over a six-week campaign.

9 — Eureka will win the Big 4

The Loggers are certainly a bit of an unknown quantity going into the new season, and with just three games for each team in conference play anything can happen.

All four teams should fancy their chances.

The Loggers won’t be as dominating as they have been over past two seasons, while the Del Norte Warriors will feel they have the physicality to match up with anyone in the Big 4.

Fortuna will also be improved by the time conference play arrives, an inevitability for any Mike Benbow-coached team, while St. Bernard’s has some of the top players in the area and should push anyone in the Big 4 as long as injuries don’t take their toll.

It’s still early to be making Big 4 predictions, but I fully expect Eureka to be the team to beat once again.

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1 reply »

  1. Ray, The SB debate will not go away until the correct thing happens….they are moved into a league that represents their enrollment. No matter what anyone says a league is based on enrollment not sports record. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. As far as equity, sorry but the age of everyone gets a trophy may be influencing this decision, bottom line is that Ferndale is one example of having dominated the Little 4 for up to or more than 10 years in a row in the past….never were they required to play in a different league. End of story.

    The NCS did the right thing with SB over the winter, they moved them into a different division for playoffs. Now the HDNL needs to follow with the correct thing, moving SB back where they belong in the Little 4. Playing against teams up to 10 times their size is not sustainable, not fair to athletes, and not right.

    The HDNL is made up of 3 board members in total, two of those are Lakins, Charley and Jack, both with strong ties to Ferndale. The other board member is from Fortuna High.

    Every other team has benefited from this decision except one…..SB. That sounds a lot like a punishment, for working hard and building a strong football program. Instead of punishing SB for doing that, we should be discussing how positive that is and what they are able to do with such a small enrollment. By the way the smallest enrollment in both the Little 4 and Big 5!!

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