The 11th-seeded Del Norte High football team pulled off another shocker in the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs with a blowout 36-7 victory on the road Saturday night over No. 3 Healdsburg.
“The kids just executed the game plan that the coaching staff put together,” said Del Norte head coach Ray Rook. “Things came together for us and we scored a few touchdowns and our defense played off-the-hook again. It was just a good all-around game.”
After two rounds of the NCS playoffs the Warriors, who few picked to make it out of the first round, seem to be playing their best football of the season.
“It is a good feeling,” said senior running back and safety Dylan Pease. “We had high expectations coming into the season, and we have had kind of a disappointing regular season, finishing 4-6 with a losing record. I think we are peaking at the right time though, and it is a great feeling. Everyone just kind of knew when to turn it on, so to speak.”
One of the major factors in the Warriors’ surge has been the defense. Del Norte has surrendered just 13 points through the first two rounds. On Saturday, the Greyhounds gained just 199 yards of total offense with only 18 rushing yards.
“We just tackled well and played good, hard-nosed defense,” Rook said. “The defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers to flow and make tackles. David Sathe and Austin Healy covered really well with Dylan playing behind them, and Healdsburg had no answer for that.”
Meanwhile, junior Warrior Chad Bell had a career game on offense, scoring all five of Del Norte’s touchdowns. Bell caught fire early in the second quarter when he took a handoff on the first play of the period 26 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
It was the first of four touchdowns for Bell in the second quarter, powering Del Norte to a 27-7 halftime lead with over 100 yards, three touchdowns rushing and a receiving touchdown. Bell finished the game with four touchdowns and 201 yards rushing, and two catches for 38 yards and another touchdown.
“He was just a relentless runner,” Pease said. “Every time he got the ball, he tried to go to the house. That is how it has to be all the time. The linemen gave him great holes to work with, and our play-calling was effective.”
Pease added 80 yards rushing for Del Norte.
None of those yards were bigger than the 24-yard run on third and 6 with about 30 seconds left in the first half. That run kept a drive alive and put Del Norte within striking distance of the end zone. Two plays later, Bell capitalized with a diving 26-yard touchdown catch from junior quarterback Stevie Maready that was tipped by two Greyhound defenders.
Del Norte’s defense took over from there.
With a three-score lead, the Warriors allowed just one first down in the third quarter. Healdsburg was shut out in the second half and managed just six first downs.
Bell provided the knock-out punch in the fourth quarter when he broke a 78-yard touchdown run to give Del Norte a 26-point lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
The Warriors advance to the semifinals, where they will face a well known league foe — Fortuna — for the third time this year. Del Norte will travel to Fortuna on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The Huskies are the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and enter the semifinals fresh off a 48-21 victory at home over No. 10 Piedmont on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Del Norte improved to 6-6 with its win.
The Huskies beat the Warriors in both previous meetings this year. They won 14-7 when the teams met in Del Norte on Sept. 27. Fortuna won the second meeting 34-12 at home.