By Ray Hamill — Whether or not the Eureka Loggers can challenge for a league title or a playoff spot this fall will depend on how quickly a young roster can come together.
In his just his second year in charge of the varsity team, head coach Mike Marcelli has just five seniors on a roster of 32, as Eureka looks to bounce back from a disappointing 4-5 record last year (0-3 in league).
The good news for the Loggers is they have plenty of young talent on the roster, both at the skill positions and in the trenches.
“As a group, they like each other and they like hanging out and doing things together,” Marcelli said. “They’re young guys who are really enthusiastic and work hard. They just have a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
“I like their potential. We just have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The seniors are expected to lead the way on such a young roster, including Elijah Griffin, who established himself as one of the best players on the team a year ago and is taking on an even bigger role this season.
“He’s taken it upon himself to get these young guys going,” Marcelli said of the running back/middle linebacker.
Another senior, Toa Ou, will also see time at running back and at middle linebacker, and also has grown into a team leader.
Fellow senior MaKade Parker will start at center and is expected to anchor a young unit, while Jeremiah Hall will give the Loggers some experience at tight end and defensive end.
“He’s a quiet leader,” Marcelli said of the latter. “He works very hard and everybody follows.”
Two juniors are also expected to play key roles.
Michael Jewell will start at quarterback, while Cole Zeller will add some punch to the offensive backfield as well as at linebacker and has impressed through the preseason as he looks set to play an influential role.
“I think our backfield experience is going to help us out quite a bit,” Marcelli said. “But our line is very young and very inexperienced, so we’re going to spend a lot of time working with those guys.”
Despite making some mental mistakes, this past weekend’s preseason scrimmage at Ferndale was a learning moment for the young players.
The Loggers open against Arcata at McKinleyville High on Saturday night and Marcelli is expecting a battle against a Tigers team he says looked much improved at the Ferndale scrimmage.
“I was real impressed with their offense,” the Eureka coach said. “They’ve got a good running game. They’ve got some guys and their quarterback was good.
“They’re much improved on what they were a year ago.”
The young Eureka players will be tested often this season with a challenging schedule ahead, one that includes three straight road games to open.
After Arcata, the Loggers will travel to play Analy and Enterprise before hosting four straight home games against Justin-Siena, Piner, Windsor and Del Norte.
They close out the season with three league games, including a second consecutive game against Del Norte, this one in Crescent City, as well as a home showdown against Fortuna and a trip to St. Bernard’s.
Saturday night’s varsity game is set for 7:30 p.m.