Arcata Tigers now have two good options at quarterback

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Cole Vandenplas in action for the Tigers earlier in the season.

By Ray Hamill — With senior Cole Vandenplas heading toward a return from injury, Arcata head coach Matt Magers could have a big decision to make this week, although it’s a decision most coaches would like to have.

Vandenplas was the Tigers’s starting quarterback for the first four games of the season before picking up an injury in a game at St. Bernard’s in mid September.

Sophomore Luke Lemke has taken over at QB since then and has looked good, including a sensational performance in a big come-from-behind win against Ferndale on Friday.

But, according to Magers, Vandenplas will step back into the role as soon as he’s cleared to play.

“He could play (this week),” Magers said of the senior, who is in his second season as starter. “But it’s going to depend on his health more than anything.”

Lemke, meanwhile, ran for three touchdowns in the 32-27 win over Ferndale, which leaves the Tigers in sole possession of top spot in the Little 4 standings.

The sensational sophomore was on fire late in the game and ran in for two of his team’s three TDs in the final seven minutes, including a spectacular scramble to give the Tigers the lead with just 33 seconds left.

He also made some big plays to help set up the late scores.

And, according to Magers, the sophomore will definitely see some time at quarterback even when Vandenplas returns.

“Lemke will see some snaps,” the coach said. “I’ve got to keep that kid on the field.”

While Lemke has proven to be a huge threat scrambling, Vandenplas is a better pocket passer and a more experienced option who understands the offense and sees the field better.

The coach likes his relationship with Vandenplas, whom he has worked closely with for the past two seasons.

Luke Lemke

“He knows what’s going on on the field,” Magers said of the senior.

In his three full appearances, two of which the Tigers won, Vandenplas completed 40 of 76 passes for 692 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions, while also rushing for 46 yards.

Since taking over, Lemke has completed 31 of 47 passes for 468 yards, five TDs and three interceptions.

The sophomore, however, has been the more effective of the two running the ball and has 308 yards on the ground — second on the team to Alex Greenway’s 360 yards — with an impressive average of 9.9 yards and four TDs.

Lemke also was a big-play threat at receiver before switching to QB and had 191 yards in three games, including an 85-yard TD catch to help seal a season-opening victory over Eureka.

The Tigers, who have won their opening two league games, will host McKinleyville on Friday night as they try to maintain their fast start to the Little 4.

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