The Eureka County High football team has had two consecutive weekend road trips that lasted six and five hours each way respectively. All the traveling hasn’t seem to slow the Vandals down though as they are on a 2-game winning streak.
First, they traveled to Coleville, California on Sept. 6 to take on the Wolves. The Vandals had no trouble moving the ball, but 5 turnovers (2 of which were in the red zone) halted drives and kept the contest close. “Not going to win many games doing that,” Head Coach Fred Minoletti said when asked about the turnover situation.
A strong rushing performance was on display by Eureka as Paul Padilla racked up 114 yards on 16 carries while Travis Lacovara added 62 yards in less than two quarters. Lacovara had to exit the game with a continuing shoulder injury. Sophomore Jake Jensen also added to the potent rushing attack with 73 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, Eureka had a couple strong performances against Coleville’s offense. Padilla led the team in tackles along with four sacks. Clancy Talbot added another three sacks for Eureka to keep Coleville’s offensive output at a minimum. The sack total for Eureka was significant, but Head Coach Fred Minoletti still had concern on the defensive side of the ball. “Pass defense was weak and we need to greatly improve on that,” Minoletti stated.
In the end though, Eureka squeaked by Coleville with a final score of 20-12 to get their first win of the season and add momentum heading into their match-up against Smith Valley.
Eureka indeed used the momentum from their first win as they came out firing on all cylinders against the Smith Valley Bulldogs on Sept. 13. The Vandals took a commanding lead on the Bulldogs by excelling in different facets of the game. Paul Padilla had another great day rushing with 186 yards on only 11 carries which attributed to a rushing touchdown. “We blocked more aggressively this game,” Padilla said when asked what attributed to the success moving the ball on the ground. Padilla also had two big kick-off return touchdowns for the Vandals. Padilla said, “I hit the holes with speed along with the good blocking which was why we were able to score on those two kickoffs.” Nick Gordon had a great game receiving from his End position as he totaled 82 yards with a touchdown. Quarterback Trevor Merritt and his receivers seem to be finding their stride passing the ball down field after three games in the books.
Eureka dominated early defensively with a group effort with multiple players making big plays. Travis Lacovara had a stellar nine tackles for loss. Defensive End Clancy Talbot had another three sack game while fellow Defensive End Trevor Merritt forced a fumble. Nick Gordon tallied an interception for Eureka while Paul Padilla once again led the team in total tackles.
Eureka carried a big lead for most of the game with the Bulldogs making a late push down the stretch, but the Vandals closed the game out convincingly and won the game 70-40 to bring their season record to 2-1.
Although Eureka is riding a two-game winning streak, injuries are mounting for the Vandals. Jake Jensen went down with a knee injury(meniscus) which might be season ending. Travis Lacovara has battled a shoulder injury since the beginning of the season which might also put him out for the remainder of the year, but it remains to be seen. Jaiden Hicks has already had a season ending injury to his knee which took place during practice. Hicks, Lacovara, and Jensen are three out of the four most utilized running backs the Vandals have.
Injuries are a part of every football team, but Eureka will have to have back-up players step up in a tremendous way moving forward if they hope to continue their promising season.
The first test will be against the Wells Leopards in Eureka’s home opener this Friday night, Sept. 19. This is the first divisional game and it will be important to start off on a good note. The game is at 7 p.m..