Tigers rally in the second half, keep Little 4 hopes alive 

File photo – The Arcata Tigers kept their league championship hopes alive with a 21-16 win over Hoopa on Friday night.

The defending champions are not going to give up their title easily.

On Friday night, at McKinleyville High School, the Arcata Tigers rallied in the second half to beat the Hoopa Warriors 21-16, leaving both teams tied for second in the Little 4 standings and still with a shot at the title.

They will, however, need help.

The McKinleyville Panthers are 3-0 in league play and can clinch at least a share of the championship with a victory at Ferndale on Saturday, but the Tigers and Warriors, each of whom are 2-2, are still in the hunt.

Friday’s game was an entertaining back-and-forth showdown with the lead changing hands on five occasions.

The Warriors scored on their opening possession, before the Tigers answered immediately to take a 7-6 lead.

The Warriors would add a 25-yard Gerard Marshall field goal to lead 9-7 at halftime, but the Tigers, who were celebrating Homecoming, began the third quarter with bang when quarterback Cole Vandenplas combined with Dayquan Dunn on a 70-yard TD pass on just the second play of the half.

The quarter was just warming up, and the Warriors responded again to take a 16-14 lead, before the Tigers answered on a six-yard TD pass from Vandenplas to Oscar Carlson.

Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, although the Warriors marched deep into Arcata territory in the final seconds, before Mason Taylor ended the threat with an interception at the one-yard line with just 12 seconds remaining.

“It was a good one,” Arcata head coach Matt Magers said of the game. “We have this problem where we start slow, but I really feel when we start clicking we’re tough to stop.”

The Arcata coach was particularly pleased with the play of his defense, a unit that included a freshman (Lincoln Neuman) and a sophomore (Neiko Bryson) starting at linebacker.

“Our D-line played amazing,” Magers added.

Another sophomore, running back Wilson Medina, opened the scoring for Arcata on a five-yard TD run.

Injuries didn’t help matters for the Warriors, who had to make some changes along the line with Bear Little sidelined and also lost speedy playmaker Darvin Davis IV late in the first half.

Quarterback Lane Campbell connected with Brandon Romero for one of the Warriors’ TDs, while Andrew Hunsucker continued to run the ball well, as did Kenek Turner.

Defensively, middle linebacker Rodney Clark “had an outstanding game,” according to head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings, while defensive ends Kaewett Nelson and Rian Tracy both also had big games.

Marshall also caused problems for the Tigers on both sides of the ball and continues to play an MVP role for this team.

“He still made plays even though he was getting triple teamed,” Billings said.

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