By Ray Hamill — Two Big 4 football heavyweights will face off in Crescent City on Saturday night, when the Del Norte Warriors host the Eureka Loggers in the first of three straight conference games for each.
Adding to the intrigue, both teams are also unbeaten early in the season, with the Loggers 2-0 after impressive wins over Arcata and McKinleyville, and the Warriors 1-0 after a big second-half performance against Arcata a week ago.
“You know, that was just a gritty overall performance from my kids,” said Del Norte head coach Nick White, whose team wore down the Tigers with their relentless and physical run game despite losing some key starters to injury. “The kids stepped up in roles they didn’t know they were going to play.”
Returning Big 4 Offensive MVP Levi Cox-Cooley will be a game-time decision at running back for the Warriors this weekend after he was forced to the sideline early in the game against Arcata.
Sophomore RB/DB RJ Loftin will also be a game-time decision after a big performance in the opener in which he had a pivotal interception and a TD run before leaving the game.
Eureka also has some players banged up a little, but all are expected to be available for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“It’s going to be a close battle,” White said. “They’re a lot like us. They’re super similar in style of play and as far as young guys on the the team.
“We’re definitely two young teams trying to develop and get better as the year goes on.”
Eureka head coach Andrew Haraldson also is expecting a battle, on a field where it’s never easy for the opposing players.
“They like to be physical and run the ball, and we do too,” Haraldson said. “I think we have two very similar styles.
“It’s definitely going to be a physical game. Both teams come in knowing their identity and knowing what they do well.
“We’re excited to play them and go against a good physical team and go test ourselves.”
The Big 4 features three young teams that should be peaking in the fall — St. Bernard’s, Eureka and Del Norte — as well as a Fortuna program that continues to produce talented players, and the success of the league at the state level in recent years looks likely to continue.
“I think all four teams have the ability to make a big run in the playoffs next year,” White said. “Including Arcata. I think people are sleeping on Arcata.”