HAROLD ABEND'S REDWOOD EMPIRE ROUNDUP

Eureka! Logger football team finds it in Rohnert Park.

After enduring a bus ride of more than seven hours in 100-degree heat and facing a team that had beaten them in the playoffs last year, many of the local assembled pundits and prognosticators were looking for the Eureka High football team to fold early against two-time defending 3A NCS Redwood Empire champion Rancho Cotate.

Instead, it was the Loggers who handed out the punishment, cruising like a fully loaded logging truck and returning to Humboldt County with all the timber in a 40-7 demolition of the Cougars.

The locals had a sense of what was coming when on the first play from scrimmage Eureka's highly regarded 6-3, 230-pound junior linebacker, Rey Maualuga, flew across the line of scrimmage and dropped the Rancho Cotate running back for a nine-yard loss. That would be the first of nine tackles (3 for losses) for Maualuga, who turned heads last year as a sophomore at the Stanford Nike Camp.

Maualuga, who hopes to play at USC, wasn't the only Logger who spent considerable time in the Cougar backfield. Eureka totally dominated the line of scrimmage on defense, limiting Rancho Cotate to 31 yards of total offense and no points through three quarters before resting the starters for the fourth stanza when the Cougars converted their only score. Senior defensive tackle Darren Allen (6-0, 255) had nine tackles with three for losses with two sacks and one forced fumble while teammate Steve Swanson, a 6-0, 200-pound junior linebacker, contributed eight tackles with three for losses and a forced fumble.

It isn't often that a medium size community like Eureka has three legitimate D-1 college prospects, let alone having them all at one school, but the Loggers can certainly lay claim to that possibility.

While Maualuga and company were "rolling" their way past the Cougars on defense, the offense led by 5-11, 195-pound senior running back Sam Vainuku and speedy 6-3, 220-pound senior wide receiver Maurice Purify.

Vainuku, who has had some interest shown by Idaho State and BYU, carried the ball extremely efficiently with 12 totes for 65 yards and one touchdown as well as having a 44 yard reception from senior quarterback Josh Larson.

Purify immediately dazzled the crowd with a 20-yard reception on Eureka's first offensive play from scrimmage. For the game, the wide receiver with Terrell Owens size, had four receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns on catches of 15 and 44 yards. On the 44-yard catch, Purify eluded four Cougar defenders before angling down the sideline and past three additional would be tacklers to pay dirt. To put an exclamation point on his performance, Purify re-entered the game on the kick-off after Rancho Cotate's lone score to return the ball 88 yards, straight up the middle, literally leaving Cougar defenders in his wake as he ran to the end zone for his third score of the game. The soft-spoken Purify has his eye on possibly playing next year at Oregon State, but Cal, UC Davis, Nevada Reno, Washington and Washington State are also interested.

Rancho Cotate, which lost 16 starters to graduation last year, clearly "has a lot of work to do," to get ready for the tough North Bay League schedule, according to veteran coach Ed Conroy.

The playoffs are a long way away, however, for Eureka after avenging a 10-0 opening loss and a 17-6 second round playoff loss to Rancho Cotate last year, and coach Jack Lakin was beaming with pride after his teams performance.

"We're excited about the opportunity to compete with the top teams in the Redwood Empire," Lakin said.

The Loggers will make another long trip to Napa in week three before returning to the hinterlands to face a perennially tough Lassen of Susanville team in week four.

Other Games:

Redwood (Larkspur) 15, Ukiah 6

At Larkspur, Ukiah was missing 1,000-yard rusher Bryan Morris as well as two other starters due to injury. As a result, the favored Wildcats literally had no offense...and to add insult to injury, they committed four costly fourth down penalties that kept Redwood drives going and led to both Giant touchdowns.

The game also saw the emergence of 5-11, 180-pound junior running back Devin Eaton as an upcoming star in the Marin County Athletic League.Eaton, who attended Redwood as a freshman, then transferred to Deer Valley in Antioch for his sophomore year, returned to the Giants and had an exceptional performance. The first time he touched the ball he ran around three Cougar tacklers for 22 yards and ignited the first scoring drive. For the game, the fleet-footed runner finished with 16 carries for 101 yards,including an eight yard TD run where he broke three tackles before landing in the end zone.

Montgomery (Santa Rosa) 27, Petaluma 7

At Montgomery, many locals felt this would be the best game of the weekend, and Petaluma was making a contest of it in sweltering 100 plus degree heat, tying Montgomery 7-7 at halftime. Unfortunately for the Trojans, the heat...and some big plays by Montgomery junior defensive back/wide receiver Marcus Ezeff spelled disaster.

Ezeff returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, a lead the Vikings never relinquished. Ezeff also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Clay Farrell for the Vikings' only score in the first half.

Montgomery may now be the top team in the Redwood Empire, but it looks like this will be a tough road to the 3A championship.

Novato 14, Casa Grande (Petaluma) 0

At Petaluma, The defending NCS Redwood Empire 2A champion Hornets had a relatively easy time with the Gauchos as Novato forced eight turnovers and got a pair of touchdowns on the ground from Paul Knell to post their season opening victory. The Hornets, who are favored to repeat as MCAL champions, posted their 16th straight victory dating back to a 9-7 loss to cross-town rival San Marin in 2001.

Rankings

As I did in the San Diego Section for the past three seasons, I will use the expertise of my friends at the local dailies combined with coaches and my own personal expertise and observations to come up with a combined ranking for the Redwood Empire, including Marin County. Here is the result after Week 1 games:

1) Montgomery, Santa Rosa (1-0) -- This week at Sonoma.

2) Eureka (1-0) -- We will be seeing more of the Loggers.

3) Analy, Sebastopol (1-0) -- The Tigers will probably make Rancho Cotate 0-2 after this week's game.

4) Maria Carillo, Santa Rosa (1-0) -- Cole Garner gained 184 yards on nine carries and made nine tackles on defense as the Pumas defeated Freedom of Oakley at home 45-21. Next up is Casa Grande.

5) Novato (1-0) -- Hornets travel to Marin Catholic, a 35-13 loser to St. Ignatius.

Editor's note -- Harold Abend is starting his fourth year as a correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports. This year, he will be focusing on the Redwood Empire and Marin County. Abend also is Vice President of Marketing for Marinscope Newspapers. He has been a public relations assistant for CIF state championship events for many years as well. He's unavailable to do a column next week, but look for Harold's report the following week.


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