The final week of the prep football regular season is here and the Little 4 Conference, after five hotly contested weeks of league play, remains wide open as Arcata High, Ferndale and Hoopa all have shots at claiming at least a piece of the Little 4 crown tonight. Over in the Big 5 Conference, Eureka will look to secure an outright league title tonight when it heads south to face Fortuna, and Del Norte will try to slow down the scoring machine that is St. Bernard’s on Saturday when it returns to Humboldt County for its final bout of the 2018 regular season.
Eureka (2-0, 9-0) at Fortuna (0-2, 5-4)
Eureka can wrap up its second straight undefeated regular season when it heads to the Friendly City tonight to face Fortuna. Kick off is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Before conference play, tonight’s game was looked at as a likely conference championship game considering both the Huskies and the Loggers were expected to win their first two league games before meeting in the final week of the season. Eureka held up its end of the bargain while the defending state champion Huskies have done anything but. Fortuna dropped its league-opener to Del Norte 49-42 in Crescent City back on Oct. 12 and fell at home in overtime in its second league game to St. Bernard’s, 56-54.
Fortuna’s defense has given up 307 points through nine games (34.1 ppg) in 2018. The Huskies allowed just 295 points over 16 games (18.4 ppg) in 2017, meaning the Huskies statistically are allowing nearly twice as many points-per-game this season as it did a year ago.
Eureka enters tonight’s contest coming off a 44-6 silencing of Del Norte on Oct. 19 and could have scored much more if needed. The Loggers, even though they have subbed out the majority of their starters by the fourth quarter in most of their games this season, are averaging 43 points-per-game in 2018 while allowing just 12.2.
A win for Eureka tonight will cap off a perfect regular season and clinch its second straight Big 4 championship as well as a home playoff game in the North Coast Section playoffs.
Ferndale (3-2, 4-5) at Arcata (4-1, 5-4)
It’s been a while since the last week of the regular season meant so much to both Ferndale and Arcata. Both programs have endured far more losses than victories over the majority of the last five years as Ferndale’s last share of a league title came in 2013 when it split the Little 4 with St. Bernard’s, while Arcata’s last conference championship came in 2012 when it took the Big 5 by storm. When tonight’s battle of the cats ends, one of these two teams will be left standing with a Little 4 championship. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m. at the Redwood Bowl.
An Arcata win will claim an outright Little 4 title for the Tigers. A Ferndale win would put both teams at 4-2 in conference and force a tie-breaker situation, which Ferndale would win due to its success against Arcata. However, if Hoopa also gets a win tonight, things would get a little more tricky as all three teams would end the season at 4-2 and would be locked in a tie-breaker situation with no clear winner.
Ferndale stunned Arcata 20-8 when the two teams met in Ferndale back on Oct. 6 in a game which saw the Tigers put forth their worst performance as a team all season. Arcata committed five turnovers in the loss and its head coach Jamal Jones said that although the game was an unfortunate one, it did have a positive effect on his team.
“We have a sense of urgency now,” Jones said. “These kids have had to learn how to fight; its a very young team that has to learn how to come out with a sense of urgency and purpose every week. Since the Ferndale loss, everyone has stepped up and everyone is holding each other accountable.”
Ferndale won its game last week against McKinleyville convincingly, 38-21, and Arcata took down Hoopa at home 22-14 a week ago as well.
McKinleyville (0-5, 2-7) at Hoopa (3-2, 5-4)
Tonight will be McKinleyville’s final chance to get its first conference win since 2015. For Hoopa, a win tonight plus a Ferndale win would give the Warriors their first share of a Little 4 championship since 1971, when they went 9-1 in league. Kick off is at 7:30 in Hoopa.
Hoopa bested McKinleyville 22-12 back on Oct. 5 in a game which saw the Panthers lose six fumbles en route to the loss. Turnovers and penalties, have been degenerative all season long for a McKinleyville team which has, at times, shown flashes of being as capable as its Little 4 counterparts. 2018 has been by no means a lost year for the Panthers as they did break their two-year long losing streak with a pair of wins during non-conference play.
Hoopa enters tonight’s game in the wake of a 22-14 loss on the road at Arcata a week ago on Oct. 19. It was a game which would have put the Warriors in the drivers seat in the Little 4 had they won it. Now sitting at 3-2, Hoopa must win today and hope for an Arcata loss to break their 47-year conference championship drought.
Del Norte (1-1, 7-2) at St. Bernard’s (1-1, 6-3) (Saturday)
Saturday’s game between Del Norte and St. Bernard’s may not carry with it the weight of the other three aforementioned games in terms of conference championships, but it will have a say in NCS playoff seeding as Saturday’s winner will have a chance to host a first-round playoff game while the loser will likely be stuck on the road for the duration of sections. Kick off is on Saturday at 2 p.m., at St. Bernard’s.
The Crusaders won a thrilling 56-54 overtime on the road against Fortuna a week ago on Oct. 19 while Del Norte fell 44-6 to Eureka on the same day. Will Omey threw for seven, count them, seven touchdowns and ran for an eighth in last week’s win while Del Norte hit a wall offensively for the first time as last week’s loss was the first time the Warriors failed to post double-digit points in 2018.
“We went threw the meat-grinder that is Eureka last week,” Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova said. “A lot is on the line Saturday, were looking at seeding for the playoffs and all that, we want to be on a roll heading into sections.”
Nova said his foremost objective on Saturday will be to slow to the pace of St. Bernard’s and keep it from delivering the big, game-changing plays it has had all season. St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said he’ll be looking to, more than anything else, to stop Del Norte’s potent rushing attack.
Sebastian Puente, Del Norte’s premier running back, notably had four rushing touchdowns against Fortuna during an upset win by his Warriors a few weeks ago on Oct. 12. Tomlin said keeping Puente from breaking through the interior of his defense will be goal number one on Saturday.
That goal may be a bit harder for Tomlin and his Crusaders, as a pair of key defensive players, linebacker Talimaivao Fonoti and strong safety Sebastian Taylor, will be out due to various injuries.
“They are both hard guys to lose,” Tomlin said. ” Fonoti had 18 tackles against Fortuna so replacing that kind of production is just tough. But, offensively, we just played our best game of the season so were feeling good about that.”