Hoopa Valley downs Tomales in Div. 5

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Fans of defensive football had to like Saturday’s North Coast Section Division 5 championship contest, but Hoopa Valley’s shutout of Tomales was a disappointing end to the Braves’ turnaround season.
Seeking its first section title in eight years, Tomales couldn’t muster enough offense against a Hoopa Valley team that won the battle along the line of scrimmage and forced enough turnovers to control the game for a 13-0 win at Humboldt State University.
“You don’t win those two things and you’ve got a real difficult job,” said Tomales coach Leon Feliciano.
Tomales (10-3) played its best when it counted most to close the season, running strong and forcing turnovers to reach the Division 5 title game.
But the Braves faced an opponent with a similar power running game led by a sizable line, and the Warriors were better at controlling the ball.
“It’s huge. Our kids worked really hard in getting here,” said Hoopa Valley coach Marty Wilkes. “We were fortunate to get the win.”
The first big play went Hoopa Valley’s way. Bringing up the defensive backfield to help stop the run, the Warriors stripped away the ball and defensive back Shane Nixon scooped it up and ran 35 yards for the game’s first score.
“Nixon is a ball hawk. He always has been,” Wilkes said.
While that score would prove to be the game winner, Hoopa Valley (11-1) put together a second-quarter drive that provided a decisive advantage. Rodney McKinnon’s 2-yard touchdown run produced a 13-0 lead — the point-after kick was wide.
Hoopa Valley opened the second half with a clock-consuming drive that didn’t produce a score but did keep Tomales back Micheal Guerrero — 1,400 yards on the season — and the Braves’ offense on the sideline.
The drive ended with Tomales intercepting a pass in the end zone. But the Braves couldn’t take advantage.
The difference in a very physical, hard-hitting game was limiting mistakes.
Tomales lost three fumbles and that stymied the Braves. Only one resulted in a Warriors score, but combined, the Hoopa Valley takeaways prevented Tomales from finding much of a rhythm on offense.
“Hoopa Valley has a heck of a team,” Feliciano said.
Experience might have played a factor. While the Warriors are an experienced squad, the Braves return much of their team for next season.
“I thought we played real strong,” Feliciano said. “The future looks very good.”