By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY A 21st straight Big 5 Conference win, a high seed in the North Coast Section 2A playoffs, and a undefeated regular season and conference mark are well within reach for the Del Norte High varsity football team.
Tonight, the Warriors, 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big 5, face the winless McKinleyville Panthers at home. Del Norte defeated the Panthers 54-0 on Sept. 21.
Head coach Lewis Nova said practices have gone well this week and the team seems to have the correct focus going into tonight's matchup.
While the Panthers may not have a win this season, Nova said his players understand the extreme importance of not taking anyone lightly and always playing well.
Nova was not happy with the overall performance from his team in a 28-0 win at Arcata last week. The Warriors were up only 7-0 after the first quarter, did not score any points in the second half, and accumulating 75 yards in penalties.
"We know we didn't play to our expectations," Nova said. "It's not something you want to build on heading into the playoffs."
Tonight, the Warriors will be without senior Jake Young, the squads starting right offensive tackle and a starting defensive tackle. Young broke a bone in his right leg during the game against Arcata last week.
"Fingers crossed," Nova said, he will be back in three to four weeks if the Warriors make it that far in the playoffs.
On the offensive line, junior Drew Parker will join the starting lineup. Asked if he believes Parker will be able to contribute to the offensive line, which has done a terrific job all season, Nova said, "That's why I picked him."
As of Thursday afternoon, Nova said it had not yet been decided who will replace Young on defense.
Although the rest of the Big 5 will have one more week of regular season play, Del Norte will be off and able to get ready for the NCS Redwood section playoffs. The eight teams in the Redwood section will be chosen on Nov. 11, with games starting on Nov. 16.
Nova hopes the Warriors will receive a high seed and expects no lower than a third seed.
Novato, which defeated Del Norte in the third round of the playoffs last year and went on to win the section, is currently undefeated at 8-0. Nova said if they win their final two games, he expects Novato to be the No. 1 seed.
Del Norte's biggest competition for the No. 2 seed, Healdsburg, lost last week to 3A Casa Grande 7-30 to go to 7-1 for the year. They also have two games remaining in the regular season.
Once the regular season ends, Nova said he and his coaching staff and the players will be focused on getting ready for the playoffs.
"It's a whole different season," he said. "It will be one game at a time."
Del Norte faces McKinleyville at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Mike Whalen Field. The junior varsity team will play at 5 p.m.