As it tries to shake off an 0-2 start, the Del Norte High School varsity football team will travel 287 miles south to play an opponent, Healdsburg High, for the first time in 14 years.
This much is certain:
“It’s gonna be hot,” junior lineman Eric Turner said with a laugh. “That’s all I know.”
The National Weather Service backs up Turner’s assertion: A forecast of 85 degrees and sun in the daytime, with temperatures dropping to 48 degrees at night. The Warriors will leave Crescent City on Friday morning; the junior varsity game kicks off at 5 p.m., with varsity to follow immediately after.
After opening its season with two home games, the young Del Norte squad will now learn to compete — and behave — on the road.
“It is tough, tough, tough, tough to go down there and play,” Warriors coach Ray Rook said. “It’s a big undertaking. It’s a tough place to play. They look like they have a few athletes.”
The Greyhounds beat Piedmont High 20-17 to open their season before traveling to Fortuna on Saturday and getting shut out by the Huskies, 37-0. Healdsburg amassed only 50 total yards of offense against Fortuna, whom Del Norte will see for the first time this season on Sept. 28.
Healdsburg returned 11 players from a 2011 squad that made the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section Division 4 semifinals. (The Greyhounds fell to eventual champion Salesian High of Richmond.) Junior quarterback Scott Reynolds has been lauded for his legs as much as his arm, and a trio of running backs — senior Ian Black and juniors Jared Walker and Trystan Cleaver — should see significant carries against the Warriors.
Todd Beth is in his first year as Greyhounds head coach after the retirement this offseason of Tom Kirkpatrick, Healdsburg’s head man for 19 years. Kirkpatrick coached the Greyhounds to seven sectional finals, winning two. Beth is no stranger to the program, having played for Healdsburg High and served as a junior varsity and varsity assistant before his promotion.
The Greyhounds defeated Del Norte 20-7 in the two schools’ last meeting, in 1998. That game was marred by an on-field brawl catalyzed by a questionable hit on the Warriors’ quarterback, Buck Pierce.
Del Norte has not shown much fight in the first halves of its first two contests, outscored by a combined 77-0 against Ferndale High and West Valley High. Second halves have been much better: Del Norte 20, opponents 0.
“We’ve probably played two (prospective) league champions in each of the first two weeks,” Rook said.
The Warriors let loose at a “Labor Football Day” practice on Monday, with non-football competitions mixed in with offensive and defensive work. (In one competition, Del Norte players carried teammates as they ran a short distance.) Coaches put less pressure on the players than a normal game week in light of the beginning of the school year.
“Team morale is doing good,” Turner said. “We’re practicing at a really high tempo. School’s starting — everyone’s happy.”
Through it all, Rook and the coaching staff continue to evaluate their starting lineup for possible tweaks; none was specified in anticipation of the Healdsburg game.
Coaches also used this week of practice to reinforce fundamental concepts.
“We get kids out there learning (the schemes) — we’ve got to stay at the basics (as the year progresses). Get everything in, and go right back to fundamentals. Do the little things right.”
Those who marry the fundamentals with football knowledge will be rewarded with playing time.
QB: Dylan Pease, jr.
RB: Jordan Carpenter, jr.
FB: Napooi Shorty, so.
WR: Nathan Porter, jr.
RT: David Plechaty, jr.
RG: Cristian Puente, jr.
C: Tyler Nelson, sr.
LG: Blair Westbrook, sr.
LT: Lane Reichlin, sr.
TE: Chad Bell, so.
WR: Aaron Fitch, jr.
DL: Lane Reichlin, sr.; Eric Lo, jr.; Tyler Nelson, sr.; David Plechaty, jr.; Eric Turner, jr.
Middle LB: Jordan Carpenter, jr.
Inside LB: Josiah Johnson, jr.; Napooi Shorty, so.
Outside LB: Jackson Evans, jr.; Chad Bell, so.
CB: Matthew Lesh, sr.; Nathan Porter, jr.
S: Dylan Pease, jr.
K/P: Aaron Fitch, jr.; Nathan Porter, jr.
KR: Jordan Carpenter, jr.; Dylan Pease, jr.; Nathan Porter, jr.; Matthew Lesh, sr.