By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers treated their homecoming crowd to a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Ferndale Wildcats at the Redwood Bowl on Friday night and took control of the Little 4 in the process.
A matchup of the best two teams in the L4 lived up to its billing and then some, as the Tigers rallied to score three unanswered touchdowns in the final seven minutes to pull out a 32-27 win in a very entertaining showdown
The victory lifts the Tigers to 2-0 in league play and leaves them alone atop the standings, while the Wildcats dropped to 1-1.
But Arcata quarterback Luke Lemke keyed the late comeback with two of his team’s three fourth-quarter TDs, the second coming on a spectacular scramble from 10 yards out with just 33 seconds remaining.
That score gave the Tigers their first lead of the night, but it didn’t seal the win.
The Wildcats had one more opportunity and almost completed an epic comeback of their own on the final play of the game when Lemke and Oscar Carlson had to break up a pass in the corner of the end zone.
He added a seven-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter to cap a big 90 seconds for the Tigers that saw them find the end zone twice to close what had been a 27-13 deficit to just one point.
Carlson also was instrumental in the win and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown right at the end of the first half, just seconds after the Cats had opened up a 27-7 lead on a one-yard Prescott Langer TD run.
Check out Luke Lemke’s game-winning touchdown run below …
Arcata’s Ronnie Franklin also scored on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter to kickstart the late rally after both teams held the other scoreless in the third.
Pidgeon also scored on a QB sneak to put the Cats up 20-7 with 4:33 remaining in the first half, a touchdown that was set up on a 57-yard run he had on the previous play.
For good measure, the talented young QB also completed a pivotal 38-yard pass to Jonah Anderson to set up Langer’s TD.
Two Arcata turnovers led to two of the Wildcats’ three second-quarter touchdowns, as they began to take control of the game and moved three scores clear after finding the end zone on four of their first six possessions.
Carslon’s big TD return, however, would prove crucial and gave the home team some much-needed momentum heading into the break despite the deficit.
The Ferndale defense held the Tigers on their opening drive of the second half and the Cats followed that with a grueling 21-play possession that ended on downs deep in Arcata territory.
The big stop by the Arcata defense also proved crucial and kept the Tigers within two scores.
They then drove 86 yards and found the end zone on Franklin’s TD run, a drive that was helped by two 15-yard Ferndale penalties.
The momentum firmly swung in their favor just moments later when a pooch kick was fumbled by the Wildcats and recovered by the Tigers, giving them possession at the Ferndale 33.
Five plays later, Lemke scored the first of his two fourth-quarter TDs and the big comeback was well and truly on.
On Ferndale’s next possession, Arcata’s Lincoln Neuman recorded his second sack of the night on a fourth down and Arcata quickly took possession again.
The Tigers would then march 59 yards on eight plays for Lemke’s go-ahead score, a drive that once again was aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the Wildcats, as well as a big Lemke scramble on fourth down to set up a first and goal with two minutes remaining.
Check out Humboldt Sports on Saturday for full video highlights of this epic showdown.
The two teams will meet a second time in league play in Ferndale in three weeks.