By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers gave No. 2 seed Moreau Catholic all it could handle in a hard-fought and physical North Coast Section Division-6 football playoff game that went down to the wire on Friday night.
The Mariners, however, battled back from a two-touchdown halftime deficit to pull out a 21-18 win and advance to next week’s semifinals.
The Arcata defense held them scoreless through the opening two quarters and the home team carried a 12-0 lead into halftime after senior quarterback Cole Vandenplas threw touchdown passes to Dayquan Dunn and Luke Lemke.
The momentum, however, quickly shifted early in the second half as the visitors began to get their running game going and they took advantage of some great field possession to score a pair of TDs in the opening seven minutes of the third quarter.
The first came on a 12-yard run moments after the Mariners blocked an Arcata punt attempt inside the 20.
The second came on an eight-yard run after they began a drive at midfield.
The momentum, however, would shift back to the Tigers once again before the quarter was over, when Vandenplas threw a second TD pass to Lemke and his third of the night, this one for 31 yards, with the receiver breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone.
The Tigers would force turnovers on three of the Mariners’ next four possessions.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kayden Hackett recovered a fumble on the return to give the home team possession at the Moreau Catholic 36-yard line, but the offense was unable to take advantage and turned the ball over on downs just six plays later.
Just three plays later, Dunn recovered a fumble to give Arcata possession again, but two plays after that he would fumble the ball right back to the visitors after pulling in a reception.
That gave the Mariners possession at the Arcata 33 and they would take advantage, re-taking the lead on a six-yard run as their offensive line settled into the game and began to open up some holes for their backs.
That was the end of the scoring and the Tigers were unable to do much offensively the remainder of the game, which was a back-and-forth affair and lasted three hours.
Check out Arcata’s three touchdowns below …
Lemke had a late interception at the Arcata goal line just as the visitors were threatening to put the game away, but once again the Arcata offense stalled and turned the ball over on downs four plays later.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Tigers, who closed out a successful season 8-3 and went 6-0 on the way to the Little 4 championship.
The Tigers hosted the playoff game at Mack High because they were league champions.
Moreau Catholic will now host either Salesian or Saint Mary’s next weekend.