Defense and special teams stepped up big late in the game for a couple of local teams on Saturday night, as Del Norte and St. Bernard’s both claimed a North Coast Section championship in football.
Del Norte held on late — barely — against top seed Encinal in the Division-5 decider at Hayward High School, with Kai Baugh and Chase Blackburn combing to block a last gasp 25-yard field goal attempt to seal a 14-13 win.
The championship victory is the first ever for the Del Norte program, which took a 14-7 lead into halftime thanks to TD runs by Blackburn and OJ Calleja.
The Jets pulled within one point on a 67-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, but missed on the PAT to remain adrift by one point.
And that was enough for the Warriors defense.
In the Division-6 championship game, meanwhile, the St. Bernard’s defense also stepped up late as the No. 2 Crusaders held on for a 31-28 win over No. 1 seed Kennedy at Benicia High School.
The Crusaders recovered two onside kicks in the third quarter and broke a 28-28 tie thanks to a 37-yard Guillermo Perez-Estrada field goal in the final minute of the period.
And that was the last of the scoring for either team, with Will Omey and Lane Thrap coming up with a couple of huge defensive plays in the final few minutes to deny the top seeds.
Omey stripped the ball for a fumble and Thrap came up with a big interception.
In other NCS action, Ferndale lost to Salesian in the Division-7 championship game.
More to follow on all three games.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.