By Ray Hamill — Whoever wins the turnover battle could very well be crowned state champions when Del Norte and El Monte play for the 5-AA title in Crescent City on Saturday night.
In a matchup between two teams who like to run the ball and play physical hard-nosed football, it’s likely to be a quick game, and it’s likely to come down to which of them can hold on to the ball better in what are expected to be rainy conditions.
“The turnover battle will be key,” Del Norte head coach Nick White said. “Especially with both teams running the ball. There are going to be limited possessions.”
The Warriors will be playing for a first-ever state championship in football after recently winning a first-ever North Coast Section championship in the sport.
Their success has been achieved in large part thanks to a talented and senior-laden roster that continues to be among the best prepared teams around.
White, in his first year as head coach, and his staff deserve a ton of credit for having their players ready to go on a weekly basis.
So too do the veteran leaders on this team, who have made sure their teammates prepare in the right way.
And, according to White, that leadership was evident once again at practice this week.
“It’s been going really good. We’re more focused than ever,” he said of the week’s preparation. “We are laser focused.
“Every week is bigger, and it seems like we step up to the challenge every single week.”
The challenge this week will be to contain the Lions’ stellar running game, which is the second best statistically in the state, averaging 355.7 yards a game.
The Warriors present a similar challenge for their opponents, with three standout running backs patiently carrying the ball behind a physically dominating line that has continually wore down opposing defenses.
White and the Warriors will be looking for more of the same on Saturday night, with Levi Cox Cooley, Chase Blackburn and Kobe Mitchell all capable of turning in game-changing performances.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s at game time.