By Ray Hamill — There are only 128 days to go to the new prep football season, and the way things have gone recently it will probably be one of the most highly-anticipated football seasons in some time, perhaps ever.
Here then are five reasons I can’t wait for local football to return …
1 — The H-DNL hasn’t disappointed anytime recently
Ever since Eureka High won a first-ever section championship for the area back in 1929, football teams in Humboldt and Del Norte counties have enjoyed plenty of success in the North Coast Section.
In recent years, however, we’ve seen that success extend farther with a number of local teams reaching the state playoffs.
In the past five years alone, we’ve seen all four current Big 4 teams reach the state playoffs, including four combined state championship game appearances and three state titles.
That’s pretty impressive territory for local high school football, and it could very well have been four state titles had Fortuna not been denied a state playoff appearance in 2018 due to the NCS scheduling fiasco.
When football returns in the fall, there’s every reason to believe that trend will continue, with at least a couple of local teams expected to potentially compete for a section championship again.
And who knows who else might surprise?
2 — Coronavirus will make us appreciate all sports a little more
When sports resume, locally and all around the world, there will be a collective sigh of relief from sports fans, and a deeper appreciation of what we have.
3 — The Big 4
What’s not to love about the Big 4 recently?
All four teams — Del Norte, Eureka, Fortuna and St. Bernard’s — feature consistently competitive programs that play tough, hard-nosed football and often catch opponents outside of the area off guard in the playoffs.
They are not just section contenders these days, they are state contenders, and the Big 4 is as competitive a Division-IV conference as you’ll find anywhere in the North Coast Section and beyond, with the football teams setting the standard for other sports in the conference.
4 — Wildcats on the rise
Anyone who has followed the progression of Ferndale football the past couple of years will feel excited about the direction this team is headed again.
One of the most successful programs ever in the NCS — after nationally recognized De La Salle — the Wildcats were back near the summit this past fall when they reached the NCS Division-VI decider after clinching a first conference title since 2013.
They will lose a few important players from that team this fall, but they should return numerous key starters and plenty of experience.
Not to mention some great coaching, that is fast establishing a winning culture again.
The Cats are building momentum.
5 — Great coaching will help teams adjust quicker
There is no shortage of great coaching in the H-DNL, especially in the Big 4.
And that’s going to be particularly key this fall, with teams having less time to prepare for the season after the cancelation of all spring sports, including offseason programs.
It’s not just the head coaches either, with a number of great staffs in the area, one of the main reasons the teams here have been so successful in recent years.