New coach, same old Warriors.
Del Norte kicked off the new football season and a new era for the program with a comfortable 42-12 win at Lower Lake on Friday night.
And new head coach Darren LaFazio, who takes over this year from the departed Nick White, was happy with the performance from a team that also had to replace a lot of graduated seniors from last year’s league championship roster.
The game started well for the home team, which returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown on the first play of the night.
That, however, didn’t seem to affect the Warriors too much and their defense held the Trojans to one score the remainder of the way, including a second-half shutout as they grew into the game.
Senior running back Caden Harrison got the new season off to an impressive start and ran the ball hard behind a strong offensive line, scoring four touchdowns and gaining 196 yards on the ground..
The new head coach also was impressed with the play of his defensive line, especially Kai Russell, who is one of two third-year varsity starters on the 2023 team, along with Harrison.
Lineman Nathan Barker also got the new season off to a good start and helped set the tone in the trenches, while cornerback Isaac Lopez was good in coverage and also looks set for a big fall.
This is a program that has dominated along both lines the last few years on the way to three straight Big 4 championships.
“We want to be real physical, we’re going to run the ball,” said the new head coach, who was the Warriors defensive coordinator under White and is familiar with the players and the program. “But we’re trying to throw the ball a little more this year.”
Despite having to replace so much talent from last year’s team, LaFazio expects his players to play with the same passion, intensity and discipline that they have become known for in recent years.
And the transition should be made easier after the success the Del Norte JVs have enjoyed the past few years as well.
“They’re real scrappy,” he said of his players. “We’re not real deep, but they’ve got heart. They’re going to be physical. I like the kids, I like their attitude.”
The early-season schedule will be tough for Del Norte, with upcoming road games at Grants Pass and South Medford the next two weeks.
“I think we need those games to see where we’re at,” LaFazio said.
The new coach also expects a tough battle in the Big 4 this year, as the Warriors’ rivals look to end their recent dominance in league play.
And both Fortuna and St. Bernard’s look much improved this year and ready to challenge for the pennant.
“It’s going to be tough,” LaFazio said. “But I think we’ve got a chance.
“I guarantee we’ll compete.”
The Del Norte JVs also got the new season off to a wining start with a 34-6 win at Lower Lake.