Del Norte

Del Norte players mentally focused ahead of big showdown

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Del Norte’s Kobe Mitchell

By Ray Hamill — The Warriors are not done yet.

Having already made history and set the standard for Del Norte High football by winning a first-ever North Coast Section championship, the players appear hungry for more, and are as focused on the task at hand as ever.

“Preparation has definitely been going good,” head coach Nick White said before the Warriors departed for Sunnyvale on Thursday. “They’re mentally focused.”

They’ll need to be.

On Friday night, they’ll play at King’s Academy High in the NorCal Regional 5-AA playoffs, with a place in one of this year’s state bowl games up for grabs.

If the Warriors win, there appears to be a good chance they would host that state bowl game somewhere here on the North Coast, which would be a first-ever for the area.

Every week, the stakes have gotten a little higher, and every week the Warriors have answered the call, always digging that little bit deeper than their opponents.

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Del Norte quarterback OJ Calleja

“It’s been that way ever since we played St. Bernard’s (in the Big 4). Every single game is a little bigger than the last one,” White said. “So keeping that mental focus is huge.”

A senior-laden team has maintained a veteran composure, taking care of the things they need to take care of, and they are always among the best prepared teams on the North Coast this season.

That’s a tribute to the leadership on the team and the coaching staff, which also includes offensive coordinator and Nick White’s twin brother Chris White, as well as defensive coordinator Darren Lafazio, special teams coach Mark Slayton and outside linebackers/receivers coach Josh Dane.

Friday’s game will likely be the toughest challenge yet for these Warriors and their coaches, playing against a very good Knights team that features a dangerous running game and plenty of balance on offense.

King’s Academy also has some size in the trenches.

“They’re big up front, so it’ll be a challenge pushing them around, but our kids are always up for that,” Nick White said.

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The keys for the Warriors on offense will be the same as they have been all season long.

“We want to run the ball, and establish our dominance running the ball, and try to win the turnover battle,” the head coach said.

The Warriors have been able to do that on their march through the NCS playoffs, with a talented and deep offensive backfield that has rushed for a remarkable 3,928 yards and 51 TDs this year (302.2 yards a game), behind a physically dominating line anchored by senior center Luke King.

Levi Cox Cooley leads the way on the ground with 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns (as well as 205 yards receiving), while Chase Blackburn has 1,384 yards and 14 TDs, and Kobe Mitchell has 977 yards and a team-best 15 TDs.

Perhaps more impressively, the Warriors average more than seven yards a carry.

Del Norte vs. King’s Academy

WHEN — Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE — At King’s Academy High in Sunnyvale (just north of San Jose).

RECORDS — The Warriors are 12-1 and NCS Division-5 champions. The Knights are 10-3 and Central Coast Section Division-III champions.

RADIO — KPOD 99.7 FM

STREAMING — NFHS Network

TICKETS — Available at GoFan.com.

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