Fresh off a bye, Del Norte comes together in time to face the Loggers
Got a name for the Eureka High-Del Norte High football rivalry?
Warriors head coach Ray Rook and former Loggers head coach Garrett Montana kicked around the idea of anointing the game with a specific moniker in years past, but nothing ever stuck.
"I'm still looking for suggestions," Rook said with a laugh.
Rook and current Eureka head coach Mike McGuire may come up with a name one day. That day will certainly not be Saturday, with the schools' junior varsity teams playing at 4 p.m. and varsity teams following at 6:30 p.m. at Eureka High's Albee Stadium.
"They're our rival," senior lineman Lane Reichlin said. "It isn't going to be hard to get ourselves motivated."
The Loggers stand at 3-4 overall this season but have won their lone Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League game, 40-14, over McKinleyville onOct. 5. Running back Jake Gordon is among a passel of talented ball carriers who make the Eureka offense go.
Del Norte (2-4 overall, 1-2 Big 5 League) is two weeks removed from a 21-15 road loss to Fortuna and hoping to avoid a third straight defeat.
The Warriors inched back from a 14-3 halftime deficit only to allow a 70-yard screen pass touchdown, enough for the Huskies to claim the victory.
"Offensively, we were not consistent," Rook said. "In the second half, we played really well. I thought we dominated the game (in the second half) and gave up one long play."
"Out of all three years on varsity, this is the most I've seen the team come together," Reichlin said. "We're all really close friends in and out of school."
Rook corroborated Reichlin's sentiment, saying that he heard a comment in the postgame locker room: "Coach, I feel like we grew up as a team."
"I felt, walking off the field, like we lost a football game," Rook said.
A football game, and nothing more. The Warriors felt the accomplishment of raising their level of play to the Huskies as strongly, if not more so, than they felt the sting of the defeat.
With 15 days between games, the Del Norte coaching staff used the week of Oct. 1 to refocus on fundamentals (how to block, how to position one's body and so forth) and this past week for game preparation.
"We re-evaluated what we do well and some of what we do not do well," Rook said. "We were able to clean up and add some things, put in special teams wrinkles, offensive wrinkles."
Even with the extra day, the coaching staff kept its practice schedule similar to that of a regular game week, with a defense-oriented Wednesday practice, an offense-oriented Thursday practice and a team dinner Thursday night. According to Rook, Del Norte was able to run more defensive plays Wednesday and offensive plays Thursday, due to the work put in during the bye week.
The Warriors travel to Eureka short two regular contributors in running back Jackson Evans and linebacker Josiah Johnson. Evans, a junior, twisted an ankle against Fortuna; Johnson underwent an appendectomy during the bye week and will be out for the season.
The Eureka game marks what Rook calls "part two of the season," and with homecoming festivities on the docket Saturday night, the Loggers have the benefit of a charged-up home crowd.
In other words, a perfect proving ground.
"We want to show the fans, the community, that the last two games don't mean anything," senior lineman Tyler Nelson said.
Reach Robert Husseman email@example.com.