By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
All good things must come to an end.
While the Del Norte High School football team's season ended in a disappointing 58-0 loss to Novato High in the Bay Area Saturday afternoon in third round playoff action, the Warriors have plenty of reasons to hold their heads up high.
Del Norte (10-2), went further in the North Coast Section 2A playoffs of any team in school history.
The Warriors played inspired football in its first two playoff games at home, coming up with clutch plays to preserve both wins, as well as winning the Big 5 Conference crown by going undefeated in league play.
After Saturday's game, as tears streamed down the faces of several players, an emotional Lewis Nova, head coach for the Warriors, told his team how proud he was of them and to learn from this most painful loss.
"The higher the reward level, the more it's going to hurt," he said. "That's the way it is in life ... We've done a lot of great, wonderful things this year."
Nova told the 11 seniors they should be proud that they were a part of two conference championships and a long run in the playoffs this year.
For the returning players, he posed a question to them.
"Do you want to take it to the next level?" Nova asked. "Next year, what's your goals?"
While quite disappointed, senior Vernon Clower said he and his teammates have a lot to be proud of.
"It felt good coming this far," he said. "It would have been nice to have won, but you can't win them all."
The Warriors came out before the game with confidence and unity. Hundreds of enthusiastic Del Norte fans, who made the nearly seven-hour journey to Novato, cheered them on. Ringing cowbells, which has become a fan tradition and waving banners supporting the team, there was certainly a lot of support for the Warriors away from home.
While Del Norte played hard from the opening whistle, all the hype about the Hornets (11-1), and the way they shut teams down proved to be true.
Novato showed it is for real.
Using a swarming, tenacious quick defense lead by the linemen, the Hornets do not give opponents an inch and do not stop playing all-out until the clock runs out in the fourth quarter.
From the get-go, the Warriors got stung early and often.
Del Norte did not even get their first first down until the third quarter. They could come up with only five offensive first downs the entire game. The Warriors rushed for 47 yards on 22 carries and passed for 94 yards.
Every time the Warriors made key plays on defense, such as a few fumble recoveries and interceptions, the Hornets seemed to quickly shut the door, stopping the offense by constantly sacking and pressuring quarterback Chad Freeman, or picking off the ball and putting the Novato offense in great field position. Del Norte committed three interceptions and two fumbles for the game.
Almost every game this season for the Hornets have been shut outs, including a 57-0 dismantling of San Rafael the week before. For the season, Novato has nine shutout games.
And Novato's offense made sure to get in the act as well.
Novato quarterback Travis Senaux threw for 317 yard and four touchdowns. The Hornets also ran for 205 yards.
Nova said his team did all they could to stop the Hornets on defense, they just could not find a weakness to exploit, as many teams have found out this year. To beat a squad like Novato, Nova said he knew they had to play a perfect game.
"We just didn't have it today," he said. "We wanted the game to be more respectable ...
They're an outstanding football team. They are so loaded in every position."
The Warriors gained possession of the ball first but quickly went three and out. The Hornets received the ball and marched right down the field, cumulating in a one-yard touchdown run by Logan Edwards.
Del Norte was unable to move the ball at all. By the time the half ended, the Warriors were down 28-0.
In the third quarter, after Novato scored again to take a 35-0 lead, it became obvious the game was not meant to be. But the loyal fans from Del Norte still cheered on their team.
"It's all right Del Norte," a fan shouted from the bleachers. "You're still our champions."
In the fourth quarter, things only got worse for the Warriors, as the Hornets put up another 23 points. It included a pass that resulted in a 53-yard touchdown. With 2:11 left in the game, Novato blocked a punt and converted the play into a safety, extending their lead to 58-0.
Both the Warriors and the Hornets substituted players on the last drive. Novato opted to take a knee each play and let the clock run out.
After the game, the Del Norte fans cheered and clapped for the Warriors.
The support the fans provided meant a lot to the players and coaches, Nova said.
"They are proud of their team," he said. "It was great to see them travel this far."
The Hornets next face Miramote (9-3), for the championship in Oakland on Saturday.