By Ray Hamill — The game plan hasn’t changed much for Del Norte football in recent years, and neither has the outcome.
On Saturday night, the Warriors continued to do what they do best, breaking open a tight game with a relentless running game and a suffocating run defense, on the way to a 27-14 win over Eureka at Albee Stadium.
The victory was the fifth straight for the Warriors, who improved to 3-0 in the Big 4 and remain alone in first place at the halfway stage of the conference schedule.
It took them a while to get going, and a pumped-up home team gave them everything they could handle early on while riding the emotion of a large homecoming crowd.
As they have so often in recent years, however, the Warriors wore down their opponents with their physical brand of football and broke open a 7-7 game with three long time-consuming second-half drives.
“That was Del Norte Warriors football in the second half,” head coach Nick White said.
After seeing five of their six first-half drives stall, the Warriors made the necessary adjustments at halftime, and a veteran team didn’t have to be asked twice.
“They responded to the challenge,” White said of his players. “We asked them, what team are we? Are we the team in the first half or do we want to be the team that played against Fortuna last week?”
RJ Loftin answered that question as loud as anybody, running the ball extremely well in the second half and scoring on a pair of TD runs, while also making some big plays on a Del Norte defensive unit that has been outstanding against the run the past two weeks.
Check out Giancarlo Desolenni’s first-half TD catch above …
“RJ really stepped up and ran really hard all night, and we needed him,” White said. “And he played really well on D. Honestly, our whole D played outstanding. It kind of carried over from last week against Fortuna.”
The loss was the fifth straight for the Loggers, who dropped to 0-3 in the Big 4 and 1-5 on the season, but the emotional effort was noticeable this week and the players were clearly pumped up for the game.
It’s been a tough campaign for the Eureka players, who have had to battle all kinds of adversity, including COVID setbacks and a ton of injuries.
“I was very happy with the way these guys played,” said assistant coach Ray Watson, who led the Loggers staff in the absence of head coach Andrew Haraldson, who has been battling sickness all week. “We’ve had a lot of adversity this week — we’ve had a lot of adversity this season — and what we really focused on this week was effort, and what was it going to take.
“And I was really happy with how we showed up today. We played football today with energy and passion, and our players needed that.”
The Loggers struck first, scoring early in the second quarter on a drive set up by cornerback Hans Chalmers’ fumble recovery in their own end zone.
Chalmers, who also plays QB, then capped an 80-yard, 15 play drive with the first of his two touchdown passes on the night, connecting with receiver Payton Harbin on a seven-yard scoring play.
The Warriors responded immediately, when quarterback Cooper Maxwell threw a 44-yard TD pass to Giancarlo Desolenni on the ensuing drive to tie the game at 7-7.
A series of quick three-and-outs followed, with neither team able to capitalize on the early offensive momentum and both defenses settling in well.
Chalmers capped a huge half on both sides of the ball with his second takeaway less than a minute before the interval, coming down with an interception at midfield.
The second half, however, belonged to the visitors, who scored on their opening three possessions and ran out the clock on their fourth.
Loftin found the end zone on a pair of short runs that finished off long drives, as the Warriors slowly took control of the game.
Check out Payton Harbin’s TD catch above …
Their third TD of the half came on a 12-yard pass from Desolenni to Isaiah Parsley with just under three minutes remaining.
“This was a grind-it-out old school game of football,” White said. “But we like that kind of game.”
An early injury to linebacker Jacob Wooden didn’t hep matters for the Loggers, who were also without some other key starters, including Lary Jimenez and Sky Barone.
“He’s a very important part of what we do,” Watson said of Wooden. “We had to start mixing things up and moving people around. And we were able to do that, and those guys stepped up. And I couldn’t be happier with their effort.”
Chan Vang had a big night in the loss, stepping up at safety and receiver and making some big plays on both sides of the ball.
Chalmers too was outstanding, throwing a second TD pass late in the game, this one to Rogan Bode from 20 yards out.
Bode, who just returned from injury last week, also had a big game and ended up playing a bigger than expected role with the other injuries forcing the Loggers’ hand.
“Offensively, he’s just electrifying,” Watson said of the junior playmaker.
The night, however, belonged to the Warriors, who are now 5-1 on the season with their only loss coming against a very talented Enterprise team on opening night.
“We’re on a roll,” White said. “We’re getting there and doing the things we need to do.”
The Del Norte JVs also won to keep their unbeaten season going.