By Ray Hamill — If the season opener is anything to go by, Eureka fans could be in for an exciting season.
Despite suffering their first regular season loss since 2016, the Loggers turned in an impressive showing in a 40-27 defeat to a top-notch Placer program at Albee Stadium on Friday night.
“I was just extremely proud of our players,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “We battled until the end. That program (Placer) is a mirror image of us. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Hillmen are one of the top Division-III programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section, finishing 12-1 in 2018.
Friday night’s game came to life in the second half, with both offenses suddenly finding their feet.
The two teams combined to score touchdowns on the opening seven possessions of the half, but it was the visitors who broke a late 27-27 deadlock with the final two TDs of the game to seal the win.
“It was a great matchup for us, and definitely an exciting game,” White said.
If Eureka fans were uncertain what to expect from a very new-look team this year that returned just three full-time starters, early impressions will leave them feeling optimistic despite the loss.
And they impressed on both sides of the ball, before fading late on defense against a team that had different starters on offense and defense, unlike this year’s Loggers.
“We held them to seven points in the first half,” said White, whose team led 8-7 at the interval. “We just ran out of gas in the second half.”
Of major concern for the Loggers were leg injuries to both Miles Meynell and Jacob Wooden.
The head coach said he will know more about both injuries later.
Meynell is a returning all-league lineman who is expected to anchor both lines this season and his loss would be a big one for the team.
Final stats were not immediately available, but several players stood out on both sides of the ball, particularly the quarterback/receiver tandem of Trevor Bell and Josiah Graham.
The two connected on TD passes of 92 and 67 yards on the opening two Eureka possessions of the second half, each on the opening play of the drive as the home team answered back-to-back Placer scores in perfect fashion.
Bell finished with three touchdown passes in his first varsity start, including a seven-yard pass to Lamarie Dunn on the opening possession of the game, capping a 15-play, 80-yard drive.
“We’ve got weapons,” White said. “We’ve got some kids that can play.”
Another highlight for the Loggers came on their final touchdown of the game, which tied the score at 27-27 early in the fourth quarter.
Graham got the ball on a reverse and threw a 17-yard TD pass to Chase “Biscuit” Steubing, who made a leaping grab in the end zone over the Placer DB’s head and somehow kept his feet inbounds on the way down.
The visitors wore down the home team’s defense with a potent running game in the second half, with fullback Hans Grassman and running back Jesse Whigam particularly effective behind some impressive blocking.
Penalties were a problem throughout for the Loggers, not unusual for the opening game.
Junior Hayden Bode, who plays safety and is the holder on the PATs, added a two-point conversion after the opening TD on a trick play, taking the direct snap and running outside on his way to the end zone.
Eureka will host Windsor next weekend.