By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
The Del Norte High varsity football team has waited all year for this opportunity.
Today, the Warriors face Novato on the Hornets home field at 1:30 p.m in the regional recognition game of the North Coast Section 2A Redwood Empire Playoffs.
The winner of the contest will go on to the championship game next week. Novato is the No.1 seed and Del Norte the No.3 seed.
Last season, Del Norte faced Novato in the regional recognition game in the Bay Area and were soundly defeated 58-0.
Del Norte senior running back Matt Wakefield said the team has strived all season to get to this point again and are glad to have another chance against the Hornets.
"Hopefully we'll get some revenge," he said. "We want to go down there and we want to beat them pretty bad."
"We've been working so hard all year to get here, now we've got to do something with it," he added."
Warriors Head Coach Lewis Nova said practices have gone well this week. He said he has been pleased with the way the players have gotten down to business, understanding the importance of the ball game.
If they win, they will have made it the furthest of any Warrior football team in the school's history.
"It's a chance for them to continue to make their mark in the Del Norte record books," Nova said.
The Warriors have not suffered the agony of defeat since the loss to Novato last November and bring a stellar 11-0 mark into the game. Del Norte also won their third straight Big 5 Conference crown this season.
Last Friday, against No. 2 seed Healdsburg, Del Norte came back from a 14-6 halftime deficit at home to win the ball game 25-14.
Novato, which won the NCS 2A title last year is also 11-0 and is gunning for a spot in the Division II state bowl game.
After a first-round bye, the Hornets came out of the gate with a vengeance last Saturday, whipping No.4 seed Terra Linda 53-21 in Novato.
The Hornets had 467 yards of total offense and had a 53-7 halftime lead. Novato pulled all their starters out of the game in the second half.
But, the Hornets will be without one of its top players today.
According to the Novato Advance newspaper, junior wide receiver Jacob Davis broke his right arm in practice and appears out for the season.
Davis was the leading receiver for Novato this year with 58 catches for 904 yards and 11 touchdowns
Nova said Novato will be a tough opponent that plays well in all aspects of the game.
A key, Nova said, will be in the trenches and how the Del Norte offensive line controls the line of scrimmage.
He said if the offensive line can plow open running lanes and give quarterback Chad Freeman time to throw and execute the game plan, he believes his team will do well.
Nova compared the Hornets defense to Healdsburg, saying they both are aggressive and attack the ball, wanting to put pressure on the quarterback, and work hard stuffing the run.
The difference, he said, is he believes the Hornets bring more speed to the table and normally dictate the flow of the game.
A key is to have his offense dictate how the flow of the contest will be and continue to execute the way they have all season, Nova said.
The running game will be led by senior Trevor Rook, who had 15 touchdowns and 950 yards in the regular season. Last Friday, he left in the second quarter with a hyper-extended knee and did not return.
Nova said Rook is fine and will no doubt play today. Freeman, a three-year starter, has had a superb season and threw for more than 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season.
In the playoffs, he threw for four touchdowns in a first-round win against Fortuna. Against Healdsburg he had two touchdowns in the win.
On defense, the Warriors know they need to shut down the Hornets offense, which can beat you from the air or on the ground.
Del Norte defensive coordinator Fritz Baldwin said he felt too many teams have played too lax against the Hornets and have been afraid to be aggressive and attack them.
He said his defense will not be intimidated and will continue to be an aggressive unit.
That means putting constant pressure on the quarterback and filling in the gaps to make sure the running game is plugged up.
"We're going to go there and play tough," Baldwin said. "The kids have all been focused this week and we'll be ready for this game."
This season, no team has scored more than 14 points against the Warriors defense.
Baldwin said the Hornets are a potent offense and run a lot of fakes and play action. He said he and the coaching staff have been hard at work coming up with ways to take the sting out of the Hornets and believes they have what it take to get the job done.
Last year, a large contingent of Warriors fans made the long journey to Novato to cheer the Warriors on.
Nova said a good number of fans are expected to be at today's game and said the support is always greatly appreciated.
If Del Norte wins the game, there is a chance the championship game could be played at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Gil Lemmon, associate commissioner of the NCS said on Monday.
If the contest is not held in Arcata it will be at Santa Rosa High School.
The winner of today's Redwood Empire game will face either Las Lomas or Campolindo.