The Arcata Tigers continued to impress on Friday night, while giving their playoff hopes a boost with a 14-9 victory over rivals McKinleyville.
The clutch Tigers rallied from a late deficit and scored the game-winning touchdown with just 22 seconds remaining in the game.
They have now won four of their last five games after starting the season 1-4, and they came into the final weekend as the No. 8 ranked team in the North Coast Section Division-6 bracket, according to MaxPreps.
Quarterback Cole Vandenplas continued to impress in the win and completed a 15-yard slant to sophomore Dayquan Dunn for the winning score to cap an impressive comeback.
“We finally started putting it together in the second half of the season,” head coach Matt Magers said. “We’re starting to run the ball well and our receivers are doing their thing. We’re young and we’re figuring it out.”
Wilson Medina got the rally started with a 59-yard TD run in the third quarter, while the team defense had another big night and only allowed one TD to the league champions.
“We had a lot of great defensive plays,” said Magers, whose team closes out the regular season 5-5. “Those guys won us the game.”
Jared Wallace combined with Chase Coleman and Dunn on a big strip sack to end the game.
Coleman and Wallace were among several seniors to impress on defense on Senior Night, along with teammates Cedar Birdsall, Francisco Zamora, Ryder Meyer and Mason Taylor.
“They played their hearts out on Senior Night,” the head coach said.
Senior quarterback/kicker Jack Clancy accounted for all of McKinleyville’s points, scoring on a QB sneak and kicking a short field goal, the latter of which was the only score of the game in the first half.
All in all, it was a disappointing way for the Panthers to close out what had been a very impressive league campaign.
It didn’t help having to play without standout running back John Randall, who suffered an injury at practice this week.
Barlow is hoping to have the influential Randall back for the postseason.
The loss was the first for the Panthers in league play, but as Little 4 champions they are guaranteed a playoff berth in the Division-7 bracket.
The loss also ended a five-game winning streak for McKinleyville, which closes out the regular season 6-4.