Vandenplas returns to lead the Tigers past the Panthers

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Senior quarterback Cole Vandenplas returned with a bang on Friday night, as the Arcata Tigers comfortably took care of business against rival McKinleyville at the Redwood Bowl, winning 44-6.

Vandenplas, who has missed the past few games through injury, threw six touchdown passes in the win, including three to junior receiver Lennon Gieder.

It was a good way to celebrate senior night for the Tigers, who are now 3-0 in the Little 4 as they get set for three consecutive road games to close out league play.

Several of the nine seniors on the roster played key roles in the win, as the Tigers opened up a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter and stretched the advantage to 26-0 by halftime.

The home team enjoyed a balanced performance, with the passing game in sync and Alex Greenway and Ronnie Franklin both running the ball effectively.

“They ran the ball well, Cole threw the ball well, but there are always things to improve on,” head coach Matt Magers said. “But I was happy with how they played. The defense played lights out again. You can’t be too unhappy with a 44-6 win.”

The seniors honored before the game included Vandenplas, Franklin, Oscar Carlson, Matt Anderson, Brycen Collinson, Jafet Herrera, David Halligan, Tanner Via-root and Destinlee Mendez.

In addition to Gieder’s three TD catches, Carlson also had a touchdown reception, as did the always impressive duo of Lincoln Neuman and Dayquan Dunn.

Green also ran in for a TD to round out a seven-touchdown performance for the home team.

One week after his outstanding performance at quarterback, sophomore Luke Lemke returned to receiver and had another good night with some big plays on sweeps and screens and had around 100 yards or more, according to his coach.

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Defensively, there were as usual several standouts for the Tigers, including Dunn and Neiko Bryson, who each had takeaways, as well as Neuman.

“The whole D-line played well,” the coach added.

The loss was the seventh of the season for McKinleyville, which dropped to 0-3 in the Little 4.

Once again the Panthers had a minimal roster of just 12 players suit up and were soon down to 11 after an injury to one starter.

However, they continued to battle and there were some bright spots for the visitors, including a TD throw from quarterback Willy Patton to Orphao Granada, who scored his first high varsity touchdown.

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John Nicholls also had two sacks and is showing some big improvement in his first season playing football.

“Some of these kids are finally figuring the game out,” head coach Fel Barlow said.

The Tigers are now 5-2 overall.

The McKinleyville JVs had a good night and got their first win of the season, beating the Tigers 52-12.

Next week, the Tigers play at Hoopa and the Panthers host Ferndale.

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