The Del Norte football team honored its 15 senior players on Senior Night at Mike Whalen Field on Friday, and four of those seniors found the end zone in the Warriors' 62-7 victory over Arcata in the regular-season finale.
"Winning on senior night, our last home game ever here, it is a good feeling," said senior Dylan Pease. "It helps us pick up some momentum for the playoffs or whatever comes after this."
Seniors Pease, David Sathe and Keawne Fiester all found their way into the end zone for Del Norte and senior Jackson Evans scored two touchdowns for the Warriors. Del Norte also had a pair of fumble recoveries from senior Josiah Johnson.
"The seniors stepped up tonight," said Del Norte head coach Ray Rook. "We had a chance to start most of them, and we got them in meaningful playing time early. It was a tribute to a lot of their hard work."
Del Norte jumped all over Arcata in the first half. The Warriors had great field position throughout the half, taking advantage of Tiger mistakes to run out to a 55-0 first half advantage.
"We were able to get into some phases of our offense that we haven't been into yet this year and, so, some good things," Rook said. "We limited mistakes for the most part."
In the first half alone, Del Norte forced five Arcata turnovers, including one interception and four fumble recoveries. The Warriors recovered another fumble in the second half.
"I think it was just our pressure," Pease said. "We applied pressure defensively, and we had everybody rallying around the ball. That is how you get those turnovers and loose ball strips."
With a senior-heavy starting lineup, Del Norte took the opening kickoff and drove it 63 yards in five plays, taking less than two minutes off the clock. The drive was capped by a 15-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior Dylan Pease.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors kicked the ball deep, but none of the Tigers was able to get to it before Johnson, who covered the kick at Arcata's 14-yard line. On the next offensive play, the Warriors again tried to run the ball up the middle, but there was a fumbled exchange between Pease and Evans that gave the ball to Arcata.
The Warriors had another opportunity to pull away from Arcata a few minutes later when Chad Bell recovered an Arcata pitch that bounced all the way to Arcata's 23-yard line. This time, Del Norte converted.
Facing 2nd and 30 from Arcata's 45-yard line, quarterback Steve Maready found Pease wide open on the right sideline for a 24-yard gain. The next play, Evans ran up the middle to try to pick up a first down. He was met by a pair of Tigers at the first down marker, but he kept his feet after the collision, jumped the defenders and cruised another 15 yards into the end zone to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead.
Evans found the end zone again, just three minutes later on a 9-yard touchdown run give Del Norte a 21-point advantage with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter started just as quickly as the first for Del Norte. Colton Davis recovered another Arcata fumble less than a minute into the period, and Chad Bell bounced a run outside for a 5-yard touchdown two plays later.
The Warriors pushed the lead to 35 points when Maready found Napooi Shorty on a play-action pass over the middle on third and 10 for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 6:50 left in the half.
Sathe caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Maready with just over five minutes left in the first half.
The Warriors played their second team offense for the final two possessions of the half, but they continued to score. Fiester scored on his first rushing attempt of the season with two minutes left in the half for a 55-0 advantage.
By the end of the first half, Del Norte had amassed 223 rushing yards, led by Evans' 113 yards. Maready was 3-for-5 throwing the ball for 73 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
The second half was played entirely with a continuous clock due to the Warriors huge lead. Del Norte played reserves on both sides of the ball for the entire half. Arcata was finally able to get some points on the scoreboard with 7:59 left in the game. After a big run on the final play of the third quarter, Arcata began the fourth with first-and-goal on the one yard line. Del Norte was able to push them all the way back to the 15-yard line, but Arcata completed a fourth-down pass to put 7 points on the board.
It was an exciting way to end the year for the senior class.
"Our senior class is a great bunch of kids," Rook said. "They play good, hard football each and every time they show up. They have put in a ton of work, and they have been with me since I started as a head coach. I can't say enough about them. I don't even know where to begin."
The win brings the regular season to a close. Del Norte seems to be in a position to earn a playoff bid for the third time in Rook's four years with the Warriors. The North Coast Sectional will announce playoff matchups and seedings on Sunday.