Final 2022 Football Edition

End of the season – Del Norte’s defense turned in a magnificent performance, but top-ranked and undefeated Marin Catholic defeated the Warriors 20-7 Saturday, Nov. 19, in the semifinals of the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs, played at the Wildcats’ home field in Kentfield. Marin Catholic will play Cardinal Newman in the championship game. Calpreps is predicting a 31-14 Marin Catholic victory.

Sportsmanship still happens – After the game, both teams came together at midfield, kneeled and shared. About 150 Del Norte fans made the trip, and unlike last week at Tennyson when fans were emphatically not allowed on the field after the game, Marin Catholic officials welcomed the Warrior fans and were gracious after the victory.

Another standout season – The Warriors turned in yet another memorable season, posting a 9-2 overall record, winning a third Big Four Conference championship in a row, and claiming a remarkable quarterfinal victory over Tennyson last week.

Defense dominance – Coming into the game, Marin Catholic averaged 46 points per game, and had yet to score less than 32 against any foe in 2022. But the Warriors controlled talented Wildcat quarterback Joey Cook, standout running back Charles Williams, and forced three turnovers. It was Del Norte’s defense that scored the Warriors’ lone score, a 25-yard interception return by Ethan Thomas, which gave Del Norte a brief 7-6 lead in the second half.

For what it’s worth – Marin Catholic’s third touchdown should not have counted. Cook corralled a bad snap, picked up the ball and then hurled it into the back of the end zone for a 25-yard score. However, video showed clearly that Cook’s knee was down when he picked up the ball. The play should have been called dead at that point.

Warriors reined in – As great as Del Norte’s defense played, Marin Catholic’s was just slightly better. The Wildcats kept the Warriors’ offense out of the end zone, plugging up Del Norte’s feared running attack, and keeping the three-headed monster of R.J. Loftin, Giancarlo DeSolinni and Aden Mintoyne contained. Del Norte couldn’t get its passing game going either, throwing three interceptions.

Saying goodbye – Saturday’s game ended the career of 17 Del Norte seniors, one of the winningest Warrior classes of all time. Two seniors – R.J. Loftin and Jacob Dane – played varsity as freshman. Quarterback Cooper Maxwell, and DeSolinni were three-year starters.

Lofty Loftin – R.J. Loftin topped 1,000-yards rushing this season, finishing with almost 2,900 yards for his career. He also scored 40 touchdowns, by far the most by any Warrior over the past 12 years. Along with three two-point conversions, Loftin finished his time at Del Norte with 246 points. He was the conference’s offensive most valuable player as a junior.

DeSolinni delight – Giancarlo DeSolinni’s time at Del Norte was just as memorable. He topped 1,000 yards rushing this season and finished with more than 2,400 yards in total offense for his career. He scored 23 rushing touchdowns and another 10 via the pass.

Barely got to know you – Also departing will be two seniors who only played football for a single season, but certainly left their marks. Thomas finished with six interceptions, and also led the team in receptions with 22. Daniel Gonzalez took over the kicking duties and was a sensation, knocking through 56-of-59 PAT attempts and handing kickoff duties. His mile-high, 10-yard onside kicks against Tennyson will be remembered.

Historic run – As noted, Del Norte has won three conference championships in a row (There was no season in 2020, and no titles were awarded during the Spring 2021 four-game season). Del Norte won three consecutive crowns in 2005-2006-2007. The Warriors have won five of the past eight H-DN titles.

White is right – Nick White took over as head coach prior to the 2019 season, assisted by offensive coordinator Chris White and defensive coordinator Darren LaFazio. Del Norte’s record in those four years is 34-8. In regular season contests, White’s team is 27-5. In playoff games, the Warriors are 7-3. Del Norte is 12-0 in Big Four Conference games, and 15-4 at Mike Whalen Field.

Looking ahead – Del Norte will lose nine offensive starters and eight on defense. That’s the bad news. There is good news, in that sophomore Aden Mintonye will return, as will junior Caden Harrison. As running backs, both averaged more than 10 yards per carry. Kai Russell will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. More good news: Del Norte’s junior varsity was 8-1 this season, 10-0 in 2021. Four Warriors were moved up from the JV squad for the playoffs: William McCovey, Benjamin Borges, Evand Ratnour and Brayden Johnson.

In other action – All four remaining Humboldt-Del Norte League teams saw their seasons end in the divisional semifinals. Del Norte fell to No. 1 Marin Catholic in Division 4. St. Bernard’s lost to No. 1 seed San Marin 52-13. McKinleyville lost to No. 1 St. Vincent de Paul in Division 7. South Fork lost to No. 2 Branson 48-28 in the eight-man division. (St. Bernard’s played its game without several of their key players – including quarterback Drew Sizemore – because of illness. The Crusaders had 22 people in uniform. San Marin had 23 … cheerleaders in uniform on the sideline. San Marin had 57 players on their roster.