By Ray Hamill — The season has ended in devastating fashion for an Arcata team that felt it had an excellent chance to challenge for a state title in football this year.
On Wednesday, the Tigers were forced to forfeit their North Coast Section Division-6 semifinal against Justin-Siena because of COVID protocols.
“I talked to a lot of our seniors and they’re devastated,” head coach Jamal Jones said. “This is a year we felt we could challenge and make a run for a state title.”
The Tigers were seeded No. 2 and were set to host No. 3 Justin-Siena on Saturday night.
This year’s team had a number of talented seniors and featured an electrifying aerial attack led by quarterback Shane Purcell and a host of skill-position players.
“All the pieces were there and we felt really, really good about the Justin-Siena game,” said Jones, whose team comfortably won their playoff opener 44-0 against San Lorenzo. “But our kids had a hell of a year. I’m extremely proud of our kids and our program.”
The problems first surfaced on Monday when the roster was reduced to 17 because of COVID protocols, but Jones says they were ready to go even with a depleted squad.
On Wednesday, however, the available players were down to a number the head coach did not feel comfortable with.
It is the second straight season the team’s playoffs have been affected by the pandemic.
“I’m bummed for my seniors,” Jones said. “When you do this job, you do it because you love kids, and we have a lot of kids that are at home and sick, and right now I’m just concerned for their health and safety.”
The Tigers are the second local team to have to forfeit a playoff game this year because of COVID protocols, joining the South Fork Cubs, who had to cancel their trip to Calistoga last week.
“It’s a sad day, but we’ll dust our boots off and get ready for next year and keep moving,” said Jones, who expects 20 players from this year’s roster back next fall, including the entire starting line. “We’ll be back, and we’ll be better, and we’ll be smarter.”