Coaches always say that good teams never let underdogs believe they have a chance to win. That was certainly the case Friday at Mike Whalen Field.
Del Norte High's varsity football team dominated from the opening whistle to the final horn, capturing a 62-0 victory over an overwhelmed Yreka team in non-conference action on Hall of Fame Night.
The Warriors took the opening drive 60 yards for a score, then turned Yreka's first offensive possession into a defensive touchdown. That set the tone the rest of the half, with Del Norte's defense dominating and its offense only stopped by a cascade of penalties, 11 in the first half.
Nevertheless, it was 27-0 after the first quarter, and 55-0 at halftime. The Warriors turned to their reserves in the second half, scoring a lone T.D. midway through the fourth quarter long after the game was on ice.
First-year coach Nick White was happy with the effort, especially defensively. The Warriors created five turnovers. Of the Miners' 13 running plays, eight lost yardage. In the first half, Yreka's passing game was limited to one completion.
"I liked our intensity," White said, who thought the team's linebackers were especially effective.
Del Norte's defense produced a pair of touchdowns. Chase Blackburn stripped Yreka quarterback Trey Setzer of the ball and then scooted into the end zone from 15 yards out in the first quarter, then Connor Long picked off a Setzer pass late in the second quarter and returned it 25 yards for a score.
Last week, in Del Norte's 20-19 road victory over highly regarded Moreau Catholic, quarterback O.J. Calleja was limited to just six pass attempts. Against Yreka, the senior was close to perfect, completing 7 of 8 passes for 144 yards, no interceptions, and his first two touchdown of the season, all in the first half.
He found a wealth of targets, too. Geo Gonzalez had three catches for 67 yards, Kaleb Price had two grabs, including one for a score, and Long had a catch as well.
Also grabbing a pair of Calleja passes for 58 yards and a score was junior running back Levi Cox-Cooley, who also rushed for 106 yards on six carries, including an 75-yard bolt right up the gut. It was his second game in a row with more than 100 yards on the ground. He did not have a carry in the second half.
It was the second consecutive year Del Norte has run roughshod over the Miners. The Warriors won last season in Yreka 44-0.
Expect next week's game to be far more of a challenge for Del Norte. LaSalle Prep of Milwaukie, Ore., comes to Mike Whalen Field for the Falcons' first game of the year. LaSalle reached the first round of the Oregon Class 5-A playoffs in 2018, the second-largest classification for schools in the state.
While the Falcons must replaced its starting quarterback, it returns quality skill players at running back and wide receiver, not to mention 295-pound Zachary Quiones, who was a second-team all-league offensive lineman as a junior.
Please note Friday's game time will be at 7 p.m., as no junior varsity contest will be played.
In junior varsity action, the Warriors won an emotional 34-0 victory over the Miners. Del Norte was playing without sophomore Poy Aguillar, who is in Oakland Children's Hospital receiving treatment after being diagnosed with a serious medical illness this week.
His teammates brought Aguilar's jersey out to the captain's meeting prior to the game, and then celebrated with it following the victory. Fund-raisers are being planned to help the family.
R. J. Loftin scored a pair of touchdowns for the Warriors, who improved to 2-0 this season.