Strong defense leads Tigers to breakthrough win over rivals

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from Saturday’s game between Arcata and Eureka.

By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers and Eureka Loggers served up one of the most exciting games of the opening weekend at Mack High on Saturday night.

Both team defenses came ready to play in their season openers, but it was the Tigers who walked away with a 19-8 win, their first over the Loggers in about a decade.

But they had to battle for it.

Trailing by just four points late in the game, the Loggers drove deep into Arcata territory as they tried to take what would have been their first lead of the night.

But the Arcata defense held firm again, turning the ball over on downs with 1:40 on the clock.

The Tigers then needed just one first down in order to run out the clock, and they got that and more when quarterback Cole Vandenplas threw a short pass to receiver Luke Lemke, who broke free down the sideline for an 85-yard touchdown to seal the victory.

It was Vandenplas’ third TD throw of the night, as the Arcata offense did just enough for the Tigers to overcome some miscues on special teams.

It was, however, the defense that set the tone, giving up just one touchdown all night, and that one only after Eureka’s Gavyn Haberman had given his team possession at the Arcata one-yard line thanks to a long punt return.

“I thought our defense did a hell of a job,” Arcata head coach Matt Magers said. “We had a couple of blunders on special teams that kept them in the game, but our defense played a hell of a game.”

Toa Ou scored the Loggers’ only TD of the night on a short run after Haberman’s long return and that tied the game at 6-6 midway through the second quarter.

Eureka’s only other points came on a third-quarter safety when an Arcata snap sailed over the punter’s head and out of the back of the end zone.

Jackson Strand gave the Tigers an early lead on a TD catch, while Oscar Carlson added their second touchdown on a 20-yard reception from Vandenplas late in the first half to send Arcata into the break leading 12-6.

Vandenplas and his offense were far from perfect in the season opener, but they grew into the game and he did a good job spreading the ball around to a number of talented receivers.

“When we started putting drives together, we were tough to stop,” Magers said. 

Defensively, there were several standouts for the Tigers, including Lemke, who capped a big all-around performance with some key pass breakups.

Neiko Bryson also had some big hits to help set a physical tone and inspire his teammates, while Kaden Hackett did a good job pressuring Eureka QB Michael Jewell and sophomore Lincoln Newman continued to shine in his second year at the varsity level.

“I could go on and on,” Magers said of his defense. “Everyone had a fantastic game.”

The Arcata coach also praised the play of the Eureka defense.

“Eureka did a hell of a job defensively,” he said. “They’ll still put it together. They have a lot of talent and size and they’re physical.”

Next week Arcata travels to Husky Field to play Fortuna on Friday night in a matchup of 1-0 teams, while Eureka travels to play Analy.

Categories: Arcata, Eureka, Football

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  1. Good for Arcata. As I recall, the last they beat Eureka was their Championship year about 2011 or so. And that was great to finally make up for the ridiculous 91-13 Eur win around ’93.

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