The suddenly high-scoring Warriors seek another upset
Times have changed for the Del Norte High football team.
In a late-season transformation, Del Norte is blocking and rushing for big yardage. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
When the season began, the Warriors knew they had to replace three starters from the 2012 offensive line.
That task got even more difficult three games into the season when one of two returning starters, 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior right tackle David Plechaty was lost for the season.
While Del Norte’s defense has been its strength, the Warriors struggled offensively.
Then came the playoffs.
The Warriors upset a second straight opponent last Saturday, putting up 36 points in a blowout win.
Junior Chad Bell exploded for 201 yards rushing and four touchdowns to spearhead a ground attack that picked up 340 yards against No. 3-seeded Healdsburg.
And the offensive line made it happen, said head coach Ray Rook.
“It was just great production from the offensive line,” said Rook. “To be honest with you, I didn’t even know that Chad Bell scored five touchdowns until I read something later on. I was actually on him for not running hard a couple times. It all started up front. The offensive line is starting to gel together, and they were all able to make their blocks and execute what we prepared for.”
It was the latest in a string off good games for the Warriors linemen.
In the first round of the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs against Justin-Siena, the Warriors rushed for over 200 yards, led by senior Jackson Evans who ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
Before that, the offensive line pushed around Arcata as the Warriors accumulated 62 points with the starters resting for most of the game.
“I think they are not putting as much thought into what we do, and just getting after it,” Rook said. “They are getting into their guys and trying to push for a few seconds like they are taught to do. I don’t have a particular individual that is standing out. They have just gelled, they are playing hard and I think the kids are inspired.”
Del Norte will need another good game from the offensive line to keep its North Coast playoff run alive.
The No. 11-seeded Warriors (6-6) will travel south to No. 2 Fortuna (9-2) for a 7 p.m. kick-off Friday.
“They are definitely an arch enemy for me and the program,” said Rook, who has lead Del Norte against Fortuna eight times in four years. “They are very well coached, they are a great fundamental football team and they prove that year in and year out in the HDN. They are well-deserving of a No. 2 seed. It is going to be a great game.”
Del Norte has played the Huskies twice this season during Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 play. Fortuna won both games, beating the Warriors 14-7 in Del Norte in the first meeting. In the second game, the Huskies used a 21-0 run spanning two minutes in the second quarter to coast to a 34-12 victory.
Although Fortuna ran away with the win last time Del Norte visited, senior running back and safety Dylan Pease isn’t expecting to be able to sneak up on the Huskies.
Since that game, the Warriors are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 112-20.
“We are kind of peaking at the right time — you can’t replace that,” Rook said. “We said earlier in the year, we have always felt like we have been ready to pull ourselves over the proverbial wall, we had our fingers on it and were pulling ourselves over. We finally got over it sometime between the last Fortuna loss and when we beat Justin-Siena. The kids are playing with a ton of confidence, and that it exciting to watch. It makes the game easier to coach for sure.”
Fortuna is probably well aware of Del Norte’s improvement.
“I am expecting Fortuna to give us a tough game like they always do,” Pease said. “They usually play pretty much mistake-free. They have beaten us twice, but I don’t think they will be looking past us. We will just have to limit our mistakes and play good assignment football on both sides of the ball.”
Offensively, Fortuna is a balanced team, with talent at every skill position.
“They have a great running game, and they have a couple good threats out at the wide receiver spot, so we will have to look out for all of it,” Pease said. “They can run when they need to and they can air it out whenever they need a big game.”
Ultimately, Rook believes the Warriors must play good sound football and get a couple of breaks to advance to the championship game.
“We have got to get first downs, and we have to limit them from having long, 12-play drives and scoring,” he said. “Obviously, we need to get a turnover or make a big play somewhere. A ball is going to bounce somebody’s way and hopefully it is ours.”