The regular season is over, win-loss records have been reset and the successes and failures of the past 11 weeks mean little now as the North Coast Section football playoffs are set to begin this Friday. The California Interscholastic Federation unveiled its 2018 North Coast Section playoff brackets last Sunday and eight local teams made the cut, with a few squads receiving high praise from the selection committee.
It’s championship or bust for the Eureka Loggers. After completing its second straight perfect regular season run the Loggers, winners of 20 of their last 21 games, landed the No. 2 seed in the Division III playoffs and a first round bye. Eureka will face the winner of No. 10 Tennyson at No. 7 De Anza on Friday, Nov. 9 at Albee Stadium.
Eureka also won the Big 4 Conference for the second straight year, clinching the league crown last Friday, Oct. 26, with a 42-13 win over Fortuna, in Fortuna. Eureka, although it is a division or two above the rest of the teams in the Humboldt-Del Norte League, did play quite a few games against larger schools. Eureka beat four Division II teams, Livermore, Lincoln, Shasta and Foothill, and one Division I team, James Logan, during its 2018 campaign.
“Playing those larger teams helps get us ready for the speed and physicality that comes during these playoffs,” Eureka head coach Jason White said. “I will say, though, the teams up here are tough. Fortuna is a very physical team, as are the rest of the teams in this area.”
Eureka is lead on offense by its senior quarterback Cruz Montana, who has thrown for 2357 yards, 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The Logger defense is anchored by Tyce Mullins who has a team-leading 106 tackles. Mullins was named the NorCal Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday.
Del Norte (8-2)
The Del Norte Warriors will join Eureka on the couch this weekend as it too will enjoy a bye week after earning a No. 2 seed in the Division IV playoffs. The Warriors earned its high-seed in large part because of its 42-31 road win over St. Bernard’s on Oct. 27. Del Norte’s season appeared to be in flux after suffering a 62-32 non-conference loss to Fortuna, in Fortuna, back on Sept. 21. Since then the Warriors have won three out of four games, including a 49-42 conference win over Fortuna, as it is now poised to make some real noise in the Division IV bracket. Del Norte will face the winner of No. 10 Justin-Sienna at No. 7 Piedmont on either Nov. 9 or 10 at home in Crescent City. An official date and time will be available later in the week.
St. Bernard’s (6-4)
The St. Bernard’s Crusaders, despite having by far and away the slimmest roster of any Big 4 team, gave Del Norte a real game a week ago and beat Fortuna in Fortuna 56-54 in overtime back on Oct. 19, avenging last year’s playoff loss to the Huskies. The Crusaders also played a couple of difficult opponents in Division II Marin Catholic and undefeated Tri-Cities Prep during the regular season. Although St. Bernard’s lost both of those games, they were expected to win neither but gave Marin a good test, especially in the first half of their 47-14 loss, and nearly beat Tri-Cities if not for a late-game safety off an errant snap.
St. Bernard’s was awarded by the selection committee for their schedule with a No. 5 seed and a home game against No. 12 Albany (6-3) this Saturday at 12 p.m.
It was a long regular season for the 2017 state champion Fortuna Huskies, who traveled to the Bay Area or further four times for away games during its campaign. After beginning the season 3-1 Fortuna, in part due to injuries and in part due to its strength of schedule, lost four of its final six games including all three of its conference games to finish with a .500 record.
The selection committee did, however, note the Huskies willingness to play higher-level competition such as Division II Tracy and Division III powerhouse Cardinal Newman with a No. 6 seed and a first round home game. Fortuna will face No. 11 El Molino at home on Friday. Kick off is at 7 p.m.
Fortuna and Del Norte are on the same side of the Division IV bracket and, should both teams advance as far, could face each other for a third time this season in the semifinal round.
The No. 9 Arcata Tigers may be a lower seed than its opponent on Friday, No. 8 Cloverdale, but the Tigers will host the first round match up thanks to winning an outright Little 4 Conference title, its first league title since winning the Big 4 in 2012.
Arcata started its season off 0-3 after a trio of tough games against St. Helena on the road, Del Norte on the road and St. Bernard’s at home. The Tigers rebounded, however, and won six of their final seven games including five of six league games.
“I had the upmost confidence, in our players and our coaching staff, that we’d comeback from 0-3 and put ourselves in a position to meet our goals this season,” Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said. “Everything we hoped to accomplish before the season is still out there in front of us.”
Jones, now in his second season at the helm for the Tigers, has guided his team to winning seasons in each of his first two years back-to-back home playoff games to start the post-season.
The Ferndale Wildcats and first year head coach Clint McClurg made a whole lot more noise in the Little 4 than anyone would have guessed before the start of league play earlier this season as the Wildcats were vying for a share of the Little 4 crown all the way up until the final week of the regular season when it faced Arcata. Although Ferndale lost that game 39-26, it did break even in league with a 3-3 record and enters post-season play as a No. 11 seed. The Wildcats will face No. 6 Berean Christian Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., in Walnut Creek.
Hoopa’s 6-4 season was its best since 2011 when the Warriors finished 9-3. Hoopa also beat Ferndale for the first time since 1995 during its 2018 run, and nearly won its first share of a league title since 1971 as it finished 4-2 in the Little 4, one game back of Arcata (5-1). For all this, Hoopa was rewarded with a No. 10 seed and a road playoff game against No. 7 St. Helena, in St. Helena on Saturday at 7 p.m.
South Fork (7-3)
The South Fork Cubs found a new home in the world of 8-person football this season as it won a North Central III Conference championship behind a perfect 3-0 league record in what was a very successful first year in 8-person football after moving down from the Little 4 before the start of the season. No. 2 South Fork earned a first round bye in the five team playoff and will host No. 3 Rincon Valley Christian on Friday, Nov. 9, in the semifinal round of the 8-person football playoff.