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Loggers dig deep in exciting season opener at Albee

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Eureka QB Hans Chalmers talks to running back Kyro Jimenez at the line of scrimmage during Saturday’s game.

By Ray Hamill — Trailing for much of the night, the Eureka Loggers had to dig deep in their season opener at home to Ukiah on Saturday night.

The full team has not practiced together in more than two weeks because of COVID protocols, with many of the players missing significant preparation time.

But with their backs to the wall late in the game, the Loggers stepped up on both sides of the ball to secure a 23-16 victory in what was an entertaining and hard-fought showdown.

First, Rogan Bode capped a brilliant night with a 57-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to give the home team its first lead of the game.

Then, later in the quarter, the Eureka defense had to hold on deep in its own territory after the Wildcats had marched all the way from their own 13-yard line in the final 76 seconds, with quarterback Ethan Rhinehart completing four passes on the drive, all of them for first downs.

“Our kids played really hard and I’m super proud of them,” Eureka head coach Andrew Haraldson said.

Junior Hans Chalmers had a big night on both sides of the ball, at quarterback and cornerback, including breaking up a pass in the end zone on the final play of the game.

“We made a lot of mistakes and we left some stuff on the board, but it was our first game,” Haraldson said. “We played a lot of players who were out for 10 days, but ultimately our guys won. They had to fight and dig deep.”

Big plays on defense proved to be decisive for the home team.

Chalmers’ game-clinching pass breakup — his second of the fourth quarter in the end zone — highlighted one of two big defensive stands late in the game by the Loggers, who also had three interceptions.

Cornerback Chan Vang had a huge day, coming up with a pair of interceptions after working harder than anyone in the offseason.

Check out Rogan Bode’s big fourth-quarter TD below …

Vang, according to his head coach, is the only player on the team who has not missed a single session with the team since the Monday after the spring season finale at Fortuna.

“He’s just worked so hard to make himself a starter,” Haraldson said.

Chalmers also had an interception and he looks like he could be the best corner on the North Coast right now.

He also had an impact at quarterback.

After Ukiah had opened the scoring in the first quarter on a two-yard TD pass from Rhinehart to receiver Marcus Fenk — who were a dangerous combo all night — Chalmers connected with receiver Larry Jimenez on a three-yard play action TD pass to pull the home team back within one point.

The score remained 8-7 at the half, thanks to Vang’s big interception deep in Eureka territory in the final minute of the second quarter.

Rhinehart and Fenk connected on a second scoring pass midway through the third quarter and a two-point conversion put the visitors up 16-7.

Chan Vang after one of his two interceptions Saturday.

The Loggers would strike back, however, when Jimenez pulled in his second TD catch of the night, this one on a 44-yard pass from Bode less than three minutes later.

Vang ended the ensuing drive with his second pick of the game, but Eureka was unable to take advantage, quickly giving the ball back on a three-and-out.

Ukiah moved the ball well in the fourth quarter, with the Loggers forced to go deep to their bench, as the lingering effects of the COVID protocols took hold.

But they stood firm when it mattered most.

After the Wildcats had driven all the way from their own 29 to Eureka’s 14 at the 8:36 mark of the fourth quarter, the home defense held.

The offense then marched 86 yards for Bode’s winning score and a successful two-point conversion run by Kyro Jimenez.

“Rogan was phenomenal,” Haraldson said. “He really dedicated himself in the offseason. He’s lightning fast and he’s gotten stronger.”

The win was the first at Albee Stadium as a head coach for Haraldson, who is only in his second season in charge of the team, after the Loggers played all road games in the spring.