By Ray Hamill — Week three of the high school football season threw up a few minor surprises, while confirming much of what we already believed.
There were big wins — again — for both St. Bernard’s and Del Norte, each of whom continue to lead the local charge this season, while four other schools got their first win of the campaign.
Here then are five takeaways from the weekend’s action …
1 — Del Norte will be difficult to stop
The Warriors have been nothing short of dominant through the opening three weeks of the season, rolling to a 3-0 record with a 42-7 win at home to La Salle out of Oregon.
It doesn’t guarantee them a Big 4 title or anything else, but after week three the Warriors are the No. 1 team in the H-DNL.
A small roster of around 20 has been setting the tone along both lines, and they have enough talented playmakers to put up plenty of points, having now outscored their first three opponents by a combined 124-26.
This week, they remain the No. 2 ranked team in the North Coast Section Division 5, according to MaxPreps, trailing only Encinal (2-1).
The Warriors travel to play Petaluma on Friday night.
2 — St. Bernard’s belongs in the Big 4
From a competitive standpoint, there is no denying the Crusaders belong in the Big 4.
If it wasn’t evident enough after 29 straight wins over Little 4 opposition, surely it is after their 30th.
On Saturday, the Crusaders crushed the defending Little 4 champions Arcata, showing once again that from a talent standpoint there remains a big gap between them and the L4 programs.
There are plenty of valid arguments as to why St. Bernard’s should be competing with the smaller schools due to enrollment and roster size, but the level of their play suggests that they belong in the B4.
And from a neutral’s perspective, the H-DNL realignment has been nothing short of brilliant, making for exciting races in both leagues.
Both conference races this season should be enthralling to watch because of it.
The Crusaders will also be better prepared for the NCS playoffs because of it.
3 — First wins abound
Congratulations to McKinleyville, Fortuna, Ferndale and South Fork, who each posted their first wins of the early season on Friday night, each doing so in impressive fashion for different reasons.
The Huskies have been challenged with three straight road games to begin their campaign and a momentum-building win at Kelseyville will be huge as they now come home to play three of their next four games in Fortuna.
A young Huskies team is going to be more and more dangerous as the season moves on, and has shown improvement each week.
So too has McKinleyville.
It had been exactly a year to the day since the Panthers last won a game, but they frustrated a good Fort Bragg program with some stifling defense and just enough offense to hold them off.
They have a handful of serious weapons along the lines and at the skilled positions, and should be a challenge for anyone in the L4 this season.
Likewise with a rejuvenated Ferndale team, which put an inconsistent showing at home to Clear Lake two weeks ago behind them with a clutch win at Fall River.
And finally, a junior-heavy and injury-plagued South Fork team rebounded from a season-opening loss to Conerstone with a dominating display at home to Round Valley that will give the Cubs confidence going forward.
4 — Eureka ever so close
The Loggers have dropped their last two games by a combined seven points and have been in all three of their games so far.
They are, in head coach Jason White’s own words, just a play away every week.
That’s not all bad news for a new-look team that is growing in stature with each performance despite the results and will be a handful for anyone when league play rolls around.
They do, however, need to start developing a winning habit.
Clutch teams find a way to win close games.
5 — Huskies, Loggers switch places in NCS rankings
It was a case of switching places in the latest NCS rankings, according to MaxPreps, with Fortuna (1-2) moving up four spots to No. 4 in Division 5, and Eureka (0-3) dropping four spots to No. 8.
Del Norte remains at No. 2 in the same division, as does St. Bernard’s in Division 6.
Arcata remains at No. 10 in Division 6, while Ferndale jumps six spots up to No. 5 in Division 7.
Also in Division 7, McKinleyville moves up one spot to No. 14, while Hoopa drops two to No. 10.