The biggest storyline so far for all nine H-DNL teams

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – The McKinleyville Panthers in action against Willits last week.

By Ray Hamill — It’s been a whirlwind start to the new high school football season, with a season’s worth of talking points already, and we’re barely a month in.

One of the nine local varsity teams has already seen a change in head coach, while another is off to its best start in several years.

Not to mention the massive impact COVID has had, and how the now annual air quality concerns around the state have affected the early schedule.

Here then are the biggest early storylines for all nine teams …

ARCATA — Don’t count the Tigers out

It’s difficult to get a handle on just who this year’s Arcata Tigers are, with three lopsided games so far, including two losses against State championship caliber programs and a blowout victory over a clearly-outmatched Balboa side on Friday night.

Head coach Jamal Jones and his players didn’t panic after the early losses, which both came in games they only had a couple of days to prepare for after late changes in the schedule.

“Don’t count us out,” Jones said after the early setbacks.

And that faith in his roster appears to have paid off with a big confidence-boosting win on Friday.

The Tigers will be favorites in the Little 4 this year, and could yet be a force in the North Coast Section Division-6 playoffs.

They host Pinole Valley next week in their only scheduled game against another NCS D-6 opponent, which gives the game some added importance.

Quarterback Shane Purcell and receivers Alex Jioras and Carson Tucker have all impressed early on.

DEL NORTE — Warriors dominating on the ground, again

Guess who might just be the best team in the H-DNL right now?

The Fortuna Huskies may have the better record (3-0), but the Del Norte Warriors (2-1) have arguably looked more impressive.

Their only loss came against an athletic Enterprise team that is 3-0, and they’re beginning to find their groove again playing physical football and running the ball effectively, as usual.

We can’t read too much into Friday night’s blowout victory at Kelseyville, although the Warriors’ 480 yards rushing is an impressive stat nonetheless.

We’ll learn more about the Warriors in two weeks time when they open league play against St. Bernard’s.

Giancarlo Desolenni has been one of the team’s most impressive players so far, on both sides of the ball, as has lineman Sam Schauerman.

EUREKA — The best is yet to come for the Loggers

No team has been affected more by COVID protocols early in the season than the Eureka Loggers, who were unable to play on the opening two weekends because so many players were unable to practice or play.

They showed a lot of character in finding a way to win their season opener against Ukiah last week, but then gave up two late TDs in a 13-12 loss at Shasta on Friday.

The good news for the Loggers (1-1) is that they have all their players available again, and, according to head coach Andrew Haraldson, they played much better in their second game despite the loss.

Of all the teams on the North Coast, Eureka is poised to show the most improvement over the next few weeks.

Players like Sky Barone, Shyloh Nicholson and Joe Gonzalez are all enjoying outstanding starts to the season.

Logan Miranda

FORTUNA — Unbeaten start for the Huskies

Tougher challenges await Fortuna in the coming weeks, but the Huskies have taken care of business early on and have done everything asked of them.

Fortuna is the only unbeaten H-DNL varsity team, and as you would expect from a Mike Benbow coached side, the Huskies don’t make many mistakes and will continue to improve week by week.

Logan Miranda has been one of the most explosive players on the North Coast through the opening month.

The Huskies play at Foothill next week — and not this weekend as previously reported here on Humboldt Sports — before opening the Big 4 at home to Eureka in two weeks.

FERNDALE — Injuries hit the Wildcats hard

It’s been a tough start to the new season for the Wildcats, who graduated a slot of seniors from a strong team last season and have suffered multiple injuries already.

They had to cancel this week’s game against St. Bernard’s because of COVID protocols, and they will begin league play in two weeks with an 0-3 record.

The Cats, however, have not been without their bright spots and a number of players have been stepping up, most notably senior captains Seth Regli, Derek Griffith and Cole Carmesin.

HOOPA — The ‘bulls’ are back

Like Eureka, the Hoopa Warriors have had to endure a difficult start to the schedule and were forced to cancel their opening two games.

Since then, they have gone 1-1, with an impressive shutout victory over Trinity on Friday night.

Key to that victory was the return of three starting offensive linemen, who missed the opener for various reasons.

“I finally had my bulls on the line and we ran right behind them,” head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings said after the win.

The coaching staff has a lot of faith in this year’s team and is confident they can challenge for the Little 4, as well as in the Division-7 NCS playoffs.

We’ll learn a lot more about the Warriors in the coming weeks.

Lane Campbell and Darvin Davis in particular have energized this team with their early-season performances.

MCKINLEYVILLE — Best start in years for the Panthers

McKinleyville is 3-1 and will go into league play in two weeks time with a lot of confidence.

The Panthers haven’t been this excited in a long time, with new head coach Fel Barlow re-energizing the program, and they have been impressive on both sides of the ball, but particularly so on defense, posting two early shut outs and only allowing 20 points total in their four games.

One of the keys to the team’s success has been the players’ discipline and composure.

“It was a great effort,” Barlow said after a 44-6 win at Fort Bragg on Friday. “We didn’t have any mental breakdowns and we kept our composure. They’re learning mentally, and I love that part.”

Jack Clancy and Connor Berg are setting the tone offensively, while on the other side of the ball Willie Baumgarten came away with two interceptions on Friday.

SOUTH FORK — An old friend returns to the sideline

Cubs head coach Karl Terrell didn’t stay away very long.

The long-time coach retired from the program during the summer, but was back on the sideline once again this weekend after Jake Looney stepped down as head coach after just one game.

Terrell, who has overseen a lot of success for the Cubs in recent years, had just two days of practice with the players this week before they won 62-20 at Round Valley on Friday night.

The 1-1 Cubs graduated a lot of seniors from last year, but should be a force again in league play and perhaps even in the NCS playoffs.

ST. BERNARD’S — Business as usual for the Crusaders

After a sloppy first half in their first game of the season, it’s been business as usual for the Crusaders, who feature a high-octane offense and perhaps the best coach in the H-DNL (in any sport).

The small school program, which is off to a 2-1 start, will continue to have concerns matching up with the bigger local schools in the Big 4, but they won’t back down from the challenge and have the players and coaching to cause any of the other teams in conference plenty of problems.

After a spring season of growing pains for a very young roster, the Crusaders are one of the most improved teams in the H-DDL this fall (along with Mack) and will no doubt continue to get better as the season progresses.

Quarterback Drew Sisemore is one of the most dynamic players on the North Coast so far this season, while Demetrius Rawson is one of the top receivers and off to a flying start.

Once again, don’t be surprised to see this team make a big playoff run.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS — Alex Jioras makes outstanding one-handed catch

By Ray Hamill — Check out video highlights above of Arcata’s Alex Jioras making a spectacular one-handed catch early in Friday night’s game against Balboa.

The play, which was good for 22 yards, set up the Tigers’ opening touchdown of the night, which came two plays later on a three-yard Jioras reception from quarterback Shane Purcell.

The Tigers, who suffered tough back-to-back losses against state playoff caliber programs the previous two weeks, would go to win comfortably, 58-26.

The 1-2 Tigers will host Pinole Valley next week, with the 2-2 Spartans coming off a close 29-27 win over Vallejo on Friday.

For more on the Tigers’ big win over Balboa, see Arcata Tigers roar back to life with lopsided win …

Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Arcata head coach Jamal Jones talks to his players during Friday’s game.

Hanson could see action for the Packers on Monday Night Football

Green Bay Packers – Jake Hanson

By Ray Hamill — The Green Bay Packers have some injury concerns along their offensive line ahead of Monday night’s home opener against the Detroit Lions, and that could pave the way for former Eureka Logger Jake Hanson to see some playing time in front of a national television audience.

Starting guard Lucas Patrick (concussion) is listed as questionable, and it is being reported that Hanson, the team’s back-up center, could step in at guard.

The former Logger was a four-year starter at Oregon before being drafted by the Packers in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

After starting last season on the team’s practice squad, he made the active roster this season.

According to Pro Football Focus, during the preseason Hanson was on the field for 50 pass-blocking snaps and did not allow any sacks and just one quarterback pressure.

Statistically speaking, he was the team’s second-best pass-blocking lineman during their three preseason games.

Unfortunately for Hanson and the Packers, the season opener was not a good one, with the team falling 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints.

Monday’s game kicks off at 5:15 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER ROUNDUP — McKinleyville tops Fortuna; Tigers, Loggers both win

File photo – McKinleyville’s Kathryn Tinney

The McKinleyville Panthers continue to set the pace in H-DNL girls soccer, stretching their unbeaten start to the season with a 3-0 win over Fortuna on Saturday.

With the first of three rounds of league play almost completed, the McKinleyville girls are 2-0-1 in the Big 5 (6-0-1 overall) and tied atop the conference standings with Arcata, whom they travel to play on Wednesday.

“We’re excited about this season,” said Mack head coach Adam Canepa, whose team has already tied Eureka and beaten Fortuna, two teams they have rarely gotten good results against in recent years. “I think we’re looking really good. I think we can beat anyone. We’ve just got to go into every game playing our best.”

So far so good.

Leah Circe scored the team’s opening goal and the Panthers led 1-0 at the half.

Thea Trout and Soffia Reyes both added to the lead after the interval, off assists from Circe and Kathryn Tinney.

“It was a good performance by the team,” Canepa said. “We played better in the second half all the way around. Our keepers made saves when they had to and our defense didn’t allow any quality opportunities.”

Tinney continued to impress in midfield, while Bria Ferrera and Lacie Rink both had big games in defense.

Likewise with Cora Allen on the wing.

The Huskies were shorthanded, with COVID protocols and injuries taking their toll early in the season.

There were, however, several bright spots despite the loss, most notably the play of junior Kaydence Ferguson, who drew special praise from the McKinleyville coach.

In goal, Kelsie Hall also had an outstanding game, as did outfielders Chloe Cox and the ever-consistent Malia Bolden, who has become a force at the back for the Fortuna girls.

File photo – Eureka’s Peyton Goodman

Eureka 8, South Fork 0

After netting a late equalizer in a thrilling showdown against Arcata earlier in the week, the Eureka Loggers carried that momentum into Saturday’s game against South Fork, winning 8-0.

Grace Nelson had a big game for the Loggers and was involved in four of her team’s goals, scoring two and assisting on two.

The ever-consistent Lila Ekholdt, who has been involved in her team’s scoring in all four games so far, continued her impressive start to the campaign with two goals and an assist, while the equally impressive Ella Tollefson had two assists and a goal.

“I thought we played well,” head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “We’re trying to build our momentum and continue to move our process forward, and I think we were able to do that today.”

Lorena Hernandez also had a goal and an assist, with additional goals from Kira Morris and Sol Lyssand, and a pair of assists from Kaitlin Giacone.

Learmouth used the occasion to give all of his players some playing time, with every player seeing substantial minutes, and the team depth was obvious with no noticeable drop off.

“It was nice to see how supportive everyone was of each other.” the coach said.

With the win, the Loggers are now 2-0-2 on the season and remain 1-0-2 in the Big 5.

The Cubs, meanwhile, played with just 10 players for most of the game and showed a lot of heart, according to head coach Ann Constantino.

Consistent senior Lyndsee Brewer had 12 saves in goal, while teammate Macy Yarbrough was strong in defense.

“Eureka plays a beautiful possession game,” Constantino said. “They’re very disciplined and consistent.”

File photo – The Arcata Tigers are 2-0-1 in the Big 5.

Arcata 2, Del Norte 0

The Tigers remain one of the two frontrunners in the Big 5 after posting a 2-0 win at Del Norte on Saturday, improving to 2-0-1 and keeping pace with McKinleyville.

Just three days after an intense game at Eureka, the Tigers continued to impress and battled to a deserved win.

Zoe Macknicki and Alia Prentiss each scored in the win, with Annie Macdonald getting an assist.

Both goals came in the first half.

“It was a good possession game,” Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan said. “We had a few opportunities go by the wayside, but that is how the game goes. I was proud of the Lady Tigers.”

Kaylee Jackson and Mary Kate Wong both had good games in defense for a young Warriors team, which is now 0-4 in league play.

“All around as a team we did better,” Del Norte coach Jeff Cook said. “We were happy with their effort today.”

Alissa Roach played in goal after the interval and was instrumental in keeping the visitors at bay for the second half with some big saves under pressure.

BOYS SOCCER ROUNDUP — Tigers, Loggers and Huskies all win

Submitted photos – Fortuna’s RJ Rexford celebrates his goal with teammates during Saturday’s game at McKinleyville.

After barely falling to Fortuna last weekend, the Arcata Tigers have responded well with a couple of big wins this week, following up a 2-1 victory at Eureka on Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Del Norte on Saturday.

Striker Ethan Gyenis remained red-hot, scoring both goals against the Warriors, one from a free kick and one from the penalty spot.

The Tigers got the shutout thanks in large part to the play of defenders Isaac Johnson and Josiah Gomez, who were, according to head coach John Davidson, “simply unbeatable” on Saturday.

Arcata is 2-1 in league play and 3-2-1 overall and appears to be seven-time defending champion Fortuna’s closest challengers this fall.

The ever-reliable Jin Vue continued to impress for the Warriors, who are now 0-2-2 in league.

“I thought the teams were evenly matched, but they took their chances while we couldn’t convert when we had the upper hand in the game,” Del Norte head coach David Sanyaolu said. “Arcata’s defense did a good job but we need to be clinical up front and be solid at the back.”

One big bright spot for the Warriors was the play of freshman Saxon Taylor, who was excellent in defensive midfield after coming in to make his high school debut late in the game.

Submitted photo – Action from the Fortuna and McKinleyville game.

Fortuna 3, McKinleyville 0

The Huskies kept their unbeaten start to the season in tact with a three-goal victory at McKinleyville.

Fortuna, which improved to 7-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Big 5, got goals from Lane Shelton, RJ Rexford and Jesus Herrera.

Edgar Herrera continued his impressive start to the season with another strong display in center mid and assisted on all three goals.

“He’s a smart player and he was composed today,” Fortuna head coach Daniel Holmes said.

Despite the loss, the Mack players turned in a batter performance than in the midweek game at Del Norte, when they gave up three unanswered goals in the second half to tie 3-3.

“We responded well and learned our lesson from the Del Norte game,” head coach Ryne Deppe said. “I like our improvements as a team and where our head is at. It was a great building block game.”

The Panthers are now 0-1-2 in the Big 5.

The Huskies also won earlier in the week, beating St. Bernard’s 9-0, as the Crusaders return to action this season.

“It was nice to see them out there again,” Holmes said. “Having a program there again is a good thing.”

Eureka 6, South Fork 0

A balanced team performance lifted the Eureka Loggers to a 6-0 win over South Fork in H-DNL boys soccer on Saturday.

Six different Eureka players scored in the win, as the Loggers improved to 1-2-3 on the season.

“It was a great overall effort” Eureka head coach Eddie Garcia said. “Everyone gave it their all, and it showed with six different players scoring.”

David Parra got the scoring started on a penalty kick, with additional goals from Trenton Gerber, Luis Romero, Will Mooney, Ean Savage and Carlos McFarland.

Next up, the Eureka boys play at Fortuna on Wednesday.

McKinleyville Panthers continue to roll at Fort Bragg

File photo

The Panthers are on a roll.

Just four weeks into the new season, they already have more wins than they managed in any of the past five years.

On Friday night, the rejuvenated Panthers traveled to Fort Bragg and came away with a 44-6 victory, improving to 3-1 and guaranteeing themselves more wins than in any season since 2015.

“It was a great effort,” first-year head coach Fel Barlow said. “We didn’t have any mental breakdowns and we kept our composure. They’re learning mentally, and I love that part.”

Junior quarterback Jack Clancy threw for three touchdowns in the win, two to Mettah Kuska and one to Graeson Amato, and he also ran in for a TD.

John Randall and Connor Berg each also scored on TD runs, while junior defensive back Willie Baumgarten led a big showing by the defense with two interceptions.

The Panthers D also forced three fumbles.

Defensively the Panthers have allowed just 20 points all season, including posting two shutouts.

The high-flying Panthers have a bye next week before playing at Hoopa in two weeks.

Crusaders win state playoff rematch at East Nicolaus

Photo by Taunya Brunton – St. Bernard’s quarterback Drew Sisemore in action at East Nicolaus on Friday night.

The St. Bernard’s Crusaders rallied from an early 0-6 deficit with five unanswered touchdowns in a comfortable 31-6 win at East Nicolaus on Friday night.

The game, which was only scheduled on Thursday after the Ferndale Wildcats were forced to pull out of a scheduled game against the Crusaders this weekend, was a rematch of the teams’ state semifinal showdown two years ago, which was also won by SB.

Crusaders head coach Matt Tomlin was particularly proud of his players for how they quickly bought into the matchup after only finding out about it 27 hours beforehand and having a walk through in the parking lot of their hotel on the morning of the game.

“It was only a regular season win, but I feel like this was one of the most memorable wins we’ve had in our nine years here,” Tomlin said.

Braeden Zimmerman had a big game on both sides of the ball, connecting with receiver Demetrius Rawson on an 80-yard TD pass as the visitors began to take control in the second quarter.

Zimmerman also recovered a fourth-quarter fumble and returned it 20 yards for a TD.

Rawson, who finished with around 200 yards receiving, added a second TD catch late in the game, this one from junior quarterback Drew Sisemore for 77 yards.

It was Sisemore’s second TD pass of the night, after earlier tying the game at 6-6 with a 13-yard throw to Peyton Smith.

Demarte Prudhomme also scored on a 19-yard fourth-quarter TD run and made several big gains.

The offensive line had a big night too, giving up just one sack despite the Crusaders throwing the ball around 50 times, while Tomlin praised the defense for holding a quality team like East Nicolaus to just six points.

With the win, the Crusaders improved to 2-1.

Much-improved Loggers give up late lead in a loss at Shasta

File photo

The Eureka Loggers led for much of Friday night’s game at Shasta, but gave up two late touchdowns to fall 13-12 and drop to 1-1 on the season.

Despite the loss, however, head coach Andrew Haraldson felt his team showed a lot of improvement from their season opener a week ago.

“Our kids played way better, than last week,” the coach said. “It was so much better. We cleaned a lot of stuff up.”

Rogan Bode scored on a long TD run and Dominick Girsback also scored on a run, behind a strong performance from the offensive line, which was led by Sky Barone and Shyloh Nicholson.

“We drove the ball well,” Haraldson said.

Daniel Garcia-Hall also had a big outing at running back and at outside linebacker in his first game of the season, while the ever-reliable Joe Gonzalez had another big night at outside linebacker.

Barone was also a monster at defensive end, earning special praise from the Shasta coach after he continually caused the home team problems all night.

In the end, however, turnovers were a problem for the visitors.

“We just made too many little mistakes,” Haraldson said. “We need to clean things up a little bit, just the little details, and we will. This group works really hard. It was a learning opportunity.”

The Loggers had a chance to re-take the lead in the final minutes, but saw a drive deep into Shasta territory stall on a fumbled snap.

The Loggers will play at Windsor next week.

Arcata Tigers roar back to life with lopsided win

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Action from Friday night’s game between Arcata and Balboa.

By Ray Hamill — What a difference a week makes.

Just seven days after getting blown out at Sutter, the Arcata Tigers came roaring back to life on Friday night, rolling over Balboa, 58-26, in a high-scoring showdown at McKinleyville High.

And what a dominating performance it was, with the Tigers scoring on six of their opening seven possessions, and taking a 40-7 lead before the visitors managed a first down.

“I thought our defense played a lot better,” head coach Jamal Jones said. “We’ve got guys in spots where they can be successful. We had a hell of a week of practice, and they came out and they did their job. It was a good day.”

Jones described it as his team’s best defensive performance in two years, with the visitors’ only score against the Arcata starters coming on special teams.

Senior quarterback Shane Purcell threw for four first-half TDs and ran in for another.

Two of the scoring passes went to Alex Jioras, one from three yards out — after the senior receiver pulled in a sensational one handed catch to set up the score — and one from 15 yards out.

Carson Tucker also scored two first half TDs, one on a reception from Purcell and one on a 20-yard run late in the first quarter to give the home team a 28-7 lead.

Purcell had plenty of time to throw the ball behind a dominating display by his line.

Outside of some impressive kickoff returns, including an 80-yard return for a TD right after the Tigers took a 14-0 lead, the Buccaneers had problems moving the ball.

Their first six possessions all were three-and-out and they didn’t record a first down until late in the second quarter.

After Purcell stretched Arcata’s advantage to five TDs on a 15-yard run early in the second quarter, he connected with Ty Franklin on a 24-yard TD pass on their following drive.

Franklin also had a two-point reception in the first half, while Alex Gorge ran in for another two-point conversion.

Linebacker Jared Wallace also had a huge first half, as did the entire Arcata defense, as the visitors repeatedly fumbled the snap and took big losses on several plays.

Purcell and Gorge each also scored on second-half TD runs.

With the win, the Tigers improved to 1-2.

Hoopa Warriors shut out Trinity in their home opener

File photo – The Hoopa Warriors improved to 1-1 with Friday’s win.

The Hoopa Warriors got their first win of the young season on Friday night, sweeping both the JV and varsity matchups against visiting Trinity.

The JVs won 24-14, with the varsity shutting out the visitors 27-0.

Quarterback Lane Campbell continued his impressive start to the season with another big game for the varsity, connecting with Kagan Renteria on a TD pass and running in for another.

Darvin Davis also had a big night on both sides of the ball, running the ball well and making some plays on defense.

Talon Borden and AJ Perez each also ran in for a TD.

“Offense wise, we kicked butt,” said head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings, who was missing three starting linemen for last week’s season opener against Fort Bragg, all of whom were back on Friday. “I finally had my bulls on the line and we ran right behind them.”

The head coach also praised the play of his defense, which shut out the visitors.

“Our defense held their own,” he said. “We just have to clean some stuff up. We bended but we didn’t break.”

With the victory, the Warriors improved to 1-1.

Del Norte Warriors cruise at Kelseyville

The Del Norte Warriors comfortably won a game they were expected to on Friday night, beating Kelseyville 55-13 behind a dominating night running the ball.

The Warriors, who improved to 2-1, racked up 480 yards on the ground.

“I was happy with how we executed,” head coach Nick White said. “We just wanted to come in there and focus on getting better and not making the mistakes we’ve been making, and I thought we really did that tonight.”

Giancarlo Desolenni scored four touchdowns on 100 yards total offense, while RJ Loftin led the ground attack with 120 yards on nine carries.

“I was happy with the overall team effort,” White added. “Everybody on the team played a role for us and that was huge.”

The Del Norte JVs also won 41-20.

The Warriors will have a bye next week before opening the Big 4 at St. Bernard’s in two weeks.

Corsairs fall to Lassen in home opener

The College of the Redwoods men’s soccer team fell 2-1 to Lassen on Friday in its home opener.

Ethan Kulchin scored the Corsairs’ only goal off a header, with Blake Vogt and Angel Ornelas Padilla both assisting on the play.

The game kicks off a six-game, three-week home stand for the Redwoods men.

With the loss, the Corsairs drop to 0-4 on the season.

Next up, the Corsairs host Mendocino at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

VOLLEYBALL ROUNDP — A great night to be back in the gym

The student section made a welcome return at Eureka High on Thursday night, as the Loggers hosted St. Bernard’s in an exciting volleyball match that went the distance.

But it was the visiting Crusaders who won the match, rallying from a 2-1 deficit to pull out a 13-25, 25-18, 9-25, 25-12, 25-10 victory.

Regardless of the result, Eureka head coach Stephanie Napoleon was delighted with the atmosphere and afterwards paid tribute to the “great student section.”

“The gym was loud and it felt like pre-COVID,” she said. “It was great! Thank you everyone who came out to support our Lady Loggers.”

Mariah Napoleon continued her impressive start to the season for the home team, making 17 straight serves in their big third set win.

Mariah finished with 14 aces in the match, while Pule Fonoti added five aces in her Loggers debut against her former team.

Maeghan Hampton and Aniah Gaither added four kills each.

No final stats were available for St. Bernard’s, but we will have more on the Crusaders early next week before they open league play at Ferndale.

Huskies get key Big 5 road win

The Fortuna Huskies got their Big 5 volleyball campaign off to an impressive start with a big win at Arcata on Wednesday night, winning in straight sets, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22.

Senior Hannah Uutela led a balanced team performance with 16 kills, while sophomore Grace Scilacci finished with 14 kills.

“The performance was great,” said head coach Rob Hayes, whose team improved to 1-0 in league and 6-2 overall. “Our defense and coverage all the way around was superb.”

Libby Johnston also had a big game, finishing with 13 kills and more than 10 digs, as did Lily Larue, who added 12 kills and an impressive eight blocks.

Kylee Fennell also had a say in the win with more than 10 digs, while sophomore setter Sarah Keating “was on point all night,” according to her coach.

For Arcata, Olivia Railsback finished with 15 digs, while Caroline Dieker had six kills and Nora Talty had a good night serving.

Next up, on Tuesday the Huskies will host Eureka, while Arcata travels to McKinleyville.

Hailey Dolcini entering transfer portal with ‘heavy heart’ 

Fresno State Athletics – Hailey Dolcini

By Ray Hamill — Hailey Dolcini has announced that she will be transferring from Fresno State as she pursues her Master’s degree.

The former Fortuna Husky and four-time Big 5 softball MVP has one year of eligibility remaining at the collegiate level and made the announcement on social media on Thursday.

“Those of you that know me, know how much I love this program and the Valley and can understand this decision was one of the most difficult decisions,” her statement read. “With that being said, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to graduate this December and enter the transfer portal to begin my Master’s degree and finish my playing career elsewhere.”

Dolcini enjoyed three stellar years at Fresno State after transferring from UC Riverside in 2019, earning all-conference honors each season with the Bulldogs.

This past spring she was named as one of the top-25 finalists for the national player of the year after posting the 11th-best ERA in the nation (1.12).

She finished the year with 259 strikeouts and a record of 22-5, including four no-hitters, two of which were perfect games, and two of which remarkably came within 24 hours of each other.

In her statement, the Ferndale native paid tribute to the Bulldogs.

“Red Wave… thank you,” she said. “Thank you for welcoming me into Fresno with open arms and making this place feel like home. None of the success I had would have been possible without all of your support throughout the years. I am beyond thankful for my time here, the memories made and for all the people that I have met along the way.”

Dolcini, like many NCAA student athletes, was given an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, which shortened the 2020 season.

South Fork girls get a key victory in soccer

Junior Summer Contreras and sophomore Caidence Young each scored a pair of goals to help lead South Fork to a key victory over Tomales in girls soccer on Wednesday.

The Cubs won 5-0 and improved to 1-2 on the season, but more importantly they got a comfortable victory over a small school, which will help boost their playoff hopes.

Young got the scoring started, before Contreras added a second Cubs goal off an assist from sophomore midfielder Cloe McConnell.

Freshman Shawnessy Conway-O’Neill then made it 3-0, scoring her first-ever high school goal after jumping on a poor clearance and slotting home.

Contreras added a fourth before halftime on an unassisted goal.

The Cubs made some adjustments at halftime, with standout senior goalie Lyndsee Brewer getting some playing time out on the field.

Senior Lily Carr took over between the posts and denied Tomales a goal on a penalty kick save, one of five saves she made to secure the clean sheet.

Young added the fifth goal in the second half, with an assist from Contreras.

Who’s playing this weekend and where

Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – The McKinleyville Panthers will play at Fort Bragg on Friday night.

By Ray Hamill — Several local high school football teams will be back in action this weekend, with a busy Friday night for the H-DNL.

Unfortunately for local fans, only two of those games will take place here on the North Coast.

First up, the Arcata Tigers (0-2) will try for their first win of the season in their home opener against Balboa (0-2), in a game that will be played at McKinleyville High at 7 p.m.

The Fortuna Huskies (3-0), meanwhile, will travel to Foothill (1-1) after three straight home games to start the season, as they try to make it four wins in four weeks.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Fresh off their hard-fought victory at home to Ukiah in their season opener last week, the Eureka Loggers (1-0) will play at Shasta (1-1) at 7:30 p.m.

Del Norte (1-1) is also on the road at Kelseyville (0-2), while McKinleyville (2-1) plays at Fort Bragg (1-1).

Both of those games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The Hoopa Warriors (0-1), who battled Fort Bragg all the way last week, will play their home opener against Trinity, at 7:30 p.m.

And rounding out a very busy night for the local teams, St. Bernard’s (1-1) will play at East Nicolaus (0-1) at 7:30 p.m., in a game that was just scheduled on Thursday afternoon after the Ferndale Wildcats were forced to cancel this Saturday’s scheduled game against the Crusaders because of COVID protocols.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL — Former H-DNL players to meet on Saturday; local QBs making some noise

Lewis & Clark Athletics – Cruz Montana

By Ray Hamill — Two former H-DNL players will renew their rivalry on the collegiate fields this weekend, while several others are coming off big performances last weekend.

This Saturday, Jack Rice and the College of Idaho (1-1) will host Jared Smith and Southern Oregon (1-1) at noon, the first meeting between these players since they were high school juniors back in September 2015 when Rice was a quarterback at St. Bernard’s and Smith a running back at McKinleyville.

Rice got the better of exchanges that day by a score 50-41, throwing for 306 yards and three TDs, and he will be hoping for more of the same this time around.

Smith, who carried the ball 19 times for 104 yards in that game, is now a linebacker at SOU.

Former Fortuna standout Daeden Taylor, meanwhile, scored his first-ever collegiate touchdown last weekend while playing quarterback for Feather River in a 41-16 win over San Jose.

Taylor scored from a yard out, while seeing some playing time for the Golden Eagles — he completed 3 of 3 passes for 29 yards.

Feather River hosts Monterey Peninsula on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Former Eureka Logger, Cruz Montana, also was in action last weekend, getting the start under center for Lewis & Clark in a 34-10 loss at Claremont.

Montana completed 20 of 45 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown in the team’s season opener.

The Pioneers (0-1) host Whittier on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Another former Eureka Logger is enjoying a good start to the season at Clarke University.

Kenny Spaight finished with four tackles and two interceptions in a 31-16 loss at home to Central Methodist last weekend, giving him three interceptions in the past two games.

The Pride (0-3) will try to get their first win when they travel to play Benedictine College at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Four other former H-DNL players are riding high in the latest state JC poll, including Eureka’s Tyce Mullins and Arcata’s Jack Baca at Butte, which is No. 11 in the rankings.

Mullins, a linebacker, made his college debut for the Roadrunners (2-0) in a 23-10 win over Laney last week.

The Roadrunners will have their hands full at 2 p.m. on Saturday, when they play San Mateo, the No 1 team in the state.

Del Norte’s Anthony Slayton and Eureka’s Josiah Graham are both playing for No. 22 Shasta, which got the season off to a winning start last week at home to San Joaquin Delta (42-27).

Slayton had a big game, finishing with seven tackles, which was tied for second best on the team, including two for a loss.

The Knights play at Laney on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Former St. Bernard’s player Micah Fontenot also had a big game last week playing for Santa Rosa.

The Bear Cubs receiver had six catches for 100 yards in a 24-7 los at Fresno.

Santa Rosa (0-2) hosts Reedley on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Two other former Del Norte players, OJ Calleja and Nick Freeman also will be in action this week when Siskiyous plays at Chabot on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Also on Saturday, Eureka’s Isaak Gutierrez and New Mexico (2-0) will try to make it three wins in three weeks when they play Texas A&M in a game that will be broadcast on the SEC Network at 9 a.m., while his former Loggers teammate Miles Meynell and UC Davis (2-0) will try to extend their impressive start at home to Dixie State at 7 p.m.

Former McKinleyville Panther James Solomon and McPherson College (1-1) host Ottawa University at 6 p.m., while Arcata’s Hayden Santsche and Simon Fraser (0-2) host Central Washington at 6 pm.

Del Norte’s Ethan Price and Western Oregon play at Portland State at 2:05 p.m., while Eureka’s Trevor Carlin and Hoopa’s Tristin Campbell play Lincoln when Willamette hosts at 1 p.m.

St. Bernard’s gets state rematch after Cats forced to cancel

File photo – The Crusaders will play at East Nicolaus on Friday night.

By Ray Hamill — St. Bernard’s will face off against East Nicolaus on Friday night in a rematch of the 2019 state football semifinal.

The road game was added on Thursday afternoon after Ferndale was forced to cancel Saturday’s scheduled game against St. Bernard’s because of COVID protocols.

“In this COVID era and wild fire era, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said on Thursday afternoon. “I’m breaking down game film right now, we practice tonight and we’ll be playing tomorrow night.”

After a five-hour drive.

St. Bernard’s defeated the Spartans in the big state semifinal two years ago, winning 45-29 on the way to the school’s second state championship in five years.

And Tomlin is expecting a battle once again on Friday.

“They look very similar to 2019,” he said. “They’re very well coached and they’re disciplined.”

East Nicolaus comes into the showdown with a record of 0-1 after dropping a close matchup, 14-12, to Bradshaw Christian.

The Crusaders, who are coming off a bye last week, are 1-1, with a 21-10 loss at St. Vincent de Paul on opening weekend and a comprehensive 47-12 victory over Arcata two weeks ago.

A number of players have impressed early for the Crusaders, including junior quarterback Drew Sisemore, who has 348 yards passing and 290 rushing through the two games, as well as five total touchdowns.

As you might expect from a St. Bernard’s team, five different receivers already have multiple receptions, including Demarte Prudhomme, Peyton Smith, Demetrius Rawson, Grant Omey and Brayden Luna.

Wyatt Simoni also has been a force on offense, both on the line and in the backfield, where he leads the running backs in limited action with 95 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries.

Prudhomme and Omey have also run the ball well.

ATHLETES AND TEAM OF THE WEEK — Loggers, Panthers take center stage

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Eureka’s Chan Vang eyes the ball ahead of making an interception against Ukiah on Saturday night.

By Ray Hamill — The hard work is paying off for a pair of Eureka standouts, who are this week’s Humboldt Sports Athletes of the Week, sponsored by College of the Redwoods Athletics.

Senior Chan Vang, described by his head coach as the hardest working player on the Loggers football team, had a huge season opener against Ukiah at Albee Stadium on Saturday night.

Vang came away with two crucial interceptions in a 23-16 victory, highlighting a big bend-don’t-break defensive performance by Eureka.

Fellow Logger Lila Ekholdt is also enjoying an outstanding early season for the Eureka girls soccer team, including scoring twice and assisting on the third goal in a 3-0 win over Del Norte on Saturday.

Our team of the week honors, meanwhile, go to the McKinleyville girls soccer team, which is off to a flying start this season and can’t stop scoring goals.


Chan Vang

Eureka Football, Senior

According to head coach Andrew Haraldson, Vang is the only Logger to have not missed a single session with the team dating back to the end of the spring season and he has worked hard to earn himself a starting spot.

And that hard work paid off for the cornerback and his team on Saturday, when Vang came up with a pair of interceptions, playing a pivotal role in the season-opening victory.

“He’s just worked so hard to make himself a starter,” Haraldson said.

For more on Vang and Eureka, see Loggers dig deep in exciting season opener at Albee …

Lila Ekholdt

Eureka Soccer, Sophomore

As her head coach Tommy Learmouth has suggested, Ekholdt plays with a calm composure well beyond her years every time she has the ball at her feet.

The Eureka sophomore enjoyed a stellar debut campaign in local high school soccer in the spring, and has carried that momentum into the fall, where she has had an immediate impact this season.

Ekholdt has been involved in her team’s goals in every game so far, providing an assist in all three games as well as scoring twice against Del Norte.

For more on Ekholdt’s big week, see our weekend Girls Soccer Roundup …

File photo – The McKinleyville Panthers


McKinleyville Girls Soccer

The high-flying Panthers are arguably the story of the soccer season so far and have been on fire at both ends of the field.

The Panthers have won five of their six games, with an impressive tie against powerhouse Eureka in the other game.

More impressively, they have scored 43 goals in those games, while allowing only two.

There will be far tougher challenges ahead for the Mack girls, but it’s shaping up to be an exciting season for head coach Adam Canepa and his players.

For more on the Panthers, see Mack girls continue impressive run with another big win …

Tigers finally get a full week to prepare for a game

Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – The Arcata Tigers will play their home opener on Friday night.

By Ray Hamill — After playing two recent state champions the past two weekends and having little or no time to prepare for either of them, it’s fair to say what we’ve seen from the Arcata Tigers so far this season is not reflective of what we expect to come.

“Like I’ve said, I wouldn’t count us out just yet,” head coach Jamal Jones said.

The Tigers (0-2) will play the Balboa Buccaneers in their home opener on Friday night at McKinleyville High, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

And while it has been a difficult start to the campaign with blowout losses on the road at St. Bernard’s (47-12) and at Sutter (57-14), the head coach feels his team will benefit from tough matchups early in the season.

“We haven’t played our best ball yet,” Jones said. “Everything we want is still in front of us. As the weeks come, you’ll see us continue to get better and better.”

The air quality around the state forced the Tigers to change their schedule at the last minute on each of the opening two weekends, and as Jones noted, the team has had to game plan for four different teams in two weeks, which has not helped their preparation.

Nor has the fact the team was playing a lot of players out of position early in the campaign and dealing with what Jones described as “internal stuff.”

“We’ve got past that now,” said the head coach, who has all his players available for the game and had a full week to prepare for this Friday’s opponent.

“It’s the first time we’re going into a game with an actual game plan,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve had a week to prepare for a team. And I don’t care what sort of a football team you are, that makes a huge difference.

“We’ll be ready to go. I expect the result to be different. I expect us to play hard.”