By Ray Hamill — It’s never an easy thing to lose a North Coast Section championship game.
It’s a sudden way to end a season and it always leaves a bittersweet taste for teams that came so close to winning the ultimate prize but inevitably are left with a lingering sense of what if.
Having said that, however, getting that far is an accomplishment that should be celebrated by any team, and while the Del Norte Warriors are no doubt still hurting from Friday’s loss at San Marin, when they look back at the 2021 season they should do so with plenty of pride.
It may not have ended the way they wanted, but the Warriors can take some solace from two things.
One, they were a fantastic team this year that set a very high standard for the rest of the H-DNL.
And two, they’re not going anywhere.
Third-year head coach Nick White and his staff have guided the Warriors to NCS championship showdowns in each of the past two section playoff tournaments (in 2019 and 2021) with very different rosters on each occasion, and they are building a culture that will continue to be difficult to stop in the coming years.
Talent comes and goes, but developing talent will always give teams a chance — look at Fortuna and St. Bernard’s — especially when a team can feed off a strong youth program in the area.
Not only do the Warriors have proven coaching — Chris White (offensive coordinator), Darren Lafazio (defensive coordinator), Josh Dane (special teams) and Kaleb Price (WRs) — but they are quickly instilling a dynamic team culture and developing a winning habit.
The Del Norte players are students of the game and the new players that come into the program are inevitably caught up in that culture, feeding off the example of the team’s veteran players, who themselves learned the same when they first joined the program.
Add to that a JV team that finished the season unbeaten and also claimed a Big 4 championship, and you can be sure this won’t be Del Norte’s last trip deep into the NCS playoffs.
The Warriors ran the ball about as well as anyone could this year and they stopped the run about as well as anyone could, and that physical mentality is something this program expects to bring every season and something the players and coaches pride themselves on.
And that’s a winning formula.
Unfortunately, bad timing played a role in this team’s destiny and they played what was probably their most mistake-prone game of the year against their most intimidating opponent on Friday night, something you simply cannot do and expect to win a game of that stature.
But the younger players will learn from Friday’s loss.
They won’t forget.
And while the team will lose a number of talented seniors to graduation, most notably along both lines, which set the tone for the team all season, they will return numerous talented players who made huge contributions.
That, coupled with the numerous upcoming talented JV players, should have the Warriors back in contention again next season.
The Warriors may have fallen just short in their bid for a second NCS crown on Friday night, but you get the feeling that second section crown might not be too far away.