Barely more than a week ago, the Hoopa Warriors’ playoff hopes were on life support.
But an incredible three shutouts in eight days has changed all of that, and heading into Sunday’s North Coast Section seedings meeting it would now be a surprise if they’re not included in the Division-7 bracket.
The Warriors completed their remarkable comeback on Saturday night, shutting out a shorthanded Arcata Tigers team 19-0.
The Tigers clinched the Little 4 title outright last week and opted to rest a number of banged-up starters ahead of the playoffs, including quarterback Shane Purcell, who threw five TD passes in a 40-6 win at Hoopa three weeks ago.
Regardless, the Warriors deserve a lot of credit for the way they have saved their season and Saturday’s victory follows a 14-0 win at home to Ferndale eight days ago and a 6-0 win at McKinleyville on Tuesday night in a make-up game from earlier in the season.
“We went from dead last in league to second in league in a week,” head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings said.
And they did it thanks to some outstanding defense, which came away with four interceptions on Saturday and scored a defensive touchdown when Kagen Renteria recovered a fumble in the end zone.
“We put pressure on their quarterback,” Billings said. “The kids are communicating. That’s the big thing.”
Kenek Turner and Andrew Hunsucker each also scored for Hoopa on TD runs.
“Our offensive line was awesome and our defensive line was awesome,” Billings said. “Both sides are coming along and we’re playing as a whole unit right now offensively and defensively.”
Arcata’s Purcell took a big hit in a game against McKinleyville last week and head coach Jamal Jones didn’t want to risk him and some other banged-up starters in what was a relatively meaningless game for his team in regard to league or playoff positioning.
“I made a decision and I’m okay with that decision and I think our team is okay with that decision,” said the Arcata coach, who was without eight starters for the game. “I think this is our year and we can make a big playoff run.
“For us, (the result) doesn’t matter. Winning a game wasn’t going to bump us up (in playoff seedings), and losing wasn’t going to bump us down, and I don’t want to lose my guys before the playoffs.”
With little on the line for the Tigers, Jones was also eager to get his back-ups some valuable playing time.
“We let our ‘twos’ get a lot of reps tonight,” he said. “And our ‘twos’ did a hell of a job, and we needed that from them.
“But take no credit away from Hoopa. I’m a big fan of Hoopa. They got a good win for their program and they got a good win for their seeding. A big congratulations to Hoopa.”