By Ray Hamill — Del Norte junior RJ Loftin has been named offensive MVP of the Big 4 in football, the league announced on Wednesday.
Loftin’s teammate Sam Schauerman was named co-MVP lineman of the conference along with St. Bernard’s Perry Bailey Jr., while Hoopa’s Gerard Marshall was named Little 4 MVP lineman.
There was no Little 4 offensive MVP named and no players from conference champion Arcata were included in the all-league selections.
According to the league, no representative from Arcata attended the all-league meeting as per league bylaws and the other three coaches did not select a second MVP.
Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said he was unable to make the meeting because of work commitments.
The Del Norte Warriors, as expected, dominated the all-league selections, with eight players named to the Big 4 first team.
Loftin had a huge impact running the ball for his team as well as playing a pivotal role at linebacker on a defense that completely shut down opposing running backs in league play.
The junior running back led the league in rushing yards, racking up an average of 133.8 yards a game and scoring 18 touchdowns.
He also had nine 100-yard games.
Schauerman also played a key role for the Warriors, who made it all the way to the NCS Division-5 championship game, before losing to the San Marin Mustangs, who will play for a state championship this weekend.
The senior standout anchored an outstanding line on both sides of the ball and has been a dominating force there for the past three seasons since breaking into the team as a sophomore.
Bailey was equally impressive for the Crusaders, who pushed Del Norte close in league play and made it to the NCS semifinals.
The senior tackle gave the Crusaders a physical presence inside and set the tone in the trenches for St. Bernard’s.
“Perry Bailey is just the complete student athlete,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “He’s outstanding in the classroom, he’s a tremendous practice player, and then he’s an absolute warrior on game day. I feel very lucky I got to coach him.”
His influence on the team was felt in more ways than that.
“What an amazing leader,” Tomlin said. “He helped a lot of his teammates with academics.”
Marshall, meanwhile, played a pivotal role for the Hoopa Warriors, who turned around their season with three shutout victories in the final eight days of the regular season to finish second in the L4 and qualify for the NCS playoffs.
The junior standout also gave his coaches some valuable options along both lines.
“He could play all the line positions,” Hoopa head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings said. “We even had him at fullback.”
In addition to Loftin and Schauerman, six other Del Norte players were named to the all-league first team, including Caleb Dodson, Konner Price, Giancarlo Desolenni, Cooper Maxwell, Tanner Skerik and Trevor Freeman.
The first-team all-league selection is the third for Schauerman, who also received the honor as a sophomore and as a junior, and it was the second for both Dodson and Freeman.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, had six all-league first-team selections.
In addition to Bailey, teammates Dominic Kofi, Demetrius Rawson, Demarte Prudhomme, Grant Omey and Wyatt Simoni all were included.
Fortuna’s Weylan McKnight, Breck Bishop and Matt Letter each also received all-league recognition, along with Eureka’s Joseph Gonzalez, Chan Vang and Hans Chalmers.
The all-league first-team selection was the second for Bailey, Omey, Rawson and Gonzalez.
Six Hoopa players were named to the Little 4 all-league first team, along with three each from Ferndale and McKinleyville.
In addition to Marshall, Hoopa’s Lane Campbell, Darvin Davis, Ryan Ames, James Marshall and James Hernandez all were included, as were Ferndale’s Kannon Christiansen, Jack Westfall and Derek Griffith, as well as McKinleyville’s Connor Berg, Connor Alto and Mettah Kuska.
This is the second time Campbell, Davis, Berg and Alto have received all-league first-team recognition.
Had the Little 4 named an offensive MVP like the Big 4, it likely would have been either quarterback Shane Purcell or receiver Carson Tucker, each of whom had a huge season for the champion Tigers.
At the very least, the two standout seniors would have made the all-league team, which would have been Tucker’s third straight year as a first-team selection, a notable achievement on its own but even more remarkable considering he never played football before high school.
“I think after their seasons, Shane or Carson were MVPs of our league,” Jones said. “I think that the other football coaches and anybody with any football knowledge or common sense would be able to see that.”
It is likely that Arcata’s Alex Jioras and Jared Wallace each also would have been all-league selections, among others.
“I thought those guys had big years,” Jones added.
An all-league first-team honor would have been the second for both Purcell and Jioras.
Del Norte — Aidan Thomas, Gavin Skerik, Brody Mattz, Hunter Giddings, Kai Russell, Caden Harrison, Bridger Ratnour, Andrew Hunte
St. Bernard’s — Peyton Smith, Brody Tomlin, Jacob Smallwood, Deshaun Bailey, Drew Sisemore, Jeran Ford and Carl Nunes
Eureka — Daniel Garcia-Hall, Jacob Wooden and Rogan Bode
Fortuna — Jake Houseworth, Rogan Gans and Logan Miranda
Hoopa — Andrew Hunsucker, Gavyn Albers, Eugene Masten and Kagan Renteria
Ferndale — Seth Regli and Cole Carmesin
McKinleyville — Jack Clancy, Jack Saso, Tyler Marsh, John Randall, Derek Ray and Jayson Rodriquez Jr.