By Ray Hamill — The frontrunners in this year’s Big 5 will face off in a key matchup on Wednesday night, as the best soccer rivalry on the North Coast takes center stage once again.
With top spot in the conference standings on the line and just one week remaining in the regular season, the Arcata girls will travel to Eureka to take on the Loggers in a primetime showdown under the lights at Albee Stadium.
“This is the easiest game of the year to get pumped for,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth. “This is a classic soccer rivalry.”
So far this season, there has been little to separate the two local powerhouses, who are not only the top two teams in the H-DNL but are also ranked one and two among North Coast Section fall soccer teams, according to MaxPreps.
The No. 1 Tigers are unbeaten with a record of 10-0-2, including a 7-0-2 mark in the Big 5, while the No. 2 Loggers are 9-1-2 overall and 7-1-2 in the Big 5, with their only loss coming against Arcata.
The Big 5 rivals have met twice so far this season, with the first game ending in a 1-1 tie after Ginny Brooks netted an equalizer for Eureka in the dying seconds, and the second game ending in a 2-0 Arcata win.
So clearly, there hasn’t been much to separate these two talented rosters, and that should be the case once again on Wednesday.
“I really think it’s going to come down to which team can manage the pressure and manage the expectations of the game,” Learmouth said. “And the team that shows up and is the most calm will win.”
A victory for the Tigers will guarantee them at least a share of the conference title with two games remaining, while a win for the Loggers would catapult them into top spot with one game remaining.
After Wednesday’s game, Arcata still has to play Del Norte (away) and McKinleyville (home), while Eureka closes out at Fortuna next week.
“I think it’s going to be a classic Eureka/Arcata battle,” Learmouth said.
The Loggers will also be celebrating senior night, which Learmouth says has all the girls excited.
“Senior night is a really special occasion,” he said.
This year’s Eureka team features just one senior, defender Payton Goodman, who has played a pivotal role on the stingiest back line in the league, which has allowed just six goals all season.
The girls game is scheduled for 7 p.m., with the Arcata and Eureka boys playing at 5.
The Eureka boys will also celebrate their senior class, including David Parra, Luis Romero, Ty Bauer, Vic Vang and Chiashi Her.