THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To end a three-season drought of winning football at Mendocino College likely means capturing a conference championship.
Leading any turnaround are a handful of former Empire prep players making major contributions on both sides of the ball.
“We feel we should win our conference. We’ve just got to be more consistent,” said defensive line anchor Brett Bowers, out of Ukiah High.
Coming off a bye week, Mendocino is healthier and confident entering Bay Valley Conference play. Mendocino plays at College of the Redwoods, in Eureka, on Saturday.
Mendocino’s 1-4 record is a product of uneven offensive play and injuries to key players. One answer could come with the return of quarterback Kyle Harmyk, the former Middletown High signal caller who missed the past two games due to injury.
“He has a great sense of our offense and throws a good ball,” said Mendocino coach Mike Mari.
On defense is where Mendocino has been strong all season. Despite giving up some big scores, the Eagles have worked hard to keep Mendocino in games, often while logging long stretches on the field.
“Our defense has played well. This unit has been put in some tough situations and has embraced adversity,” Mari said.
The top tackler is Matthew Campbell. The linebacker, from Willits high, averages six tackles and a sack per game.
One of Northern California’s top junior college pass rushers is Bowers, with nine sacks from his defensive end position. Bowers is another Mendocino player working to stay healthy after missing all but two games last season with a high ankle sprain.
“I just trained hard and prepared myself mentally for this season,” said Bowers, who takes pride in his sacks. “Sacks can be a huge momentum change.”
Where the Eagles have sputtered is scoring. The offense can get up field, averaging 360 yards per contest. But finishing drives has been a challenge with Mendocino scoring just under 17 points a game.
A primary running back has been Geno Poloni. The first-year player from Kelseyville high averages about 40 yards a game.
Through the air is where Mendocino best moves the ball. When on the field, Harmyk has thrown for 238 yards per contest, completing more than half of his passes.
One of the state’s big play receivers is Aaron Dhuyvetter. The second year player out of Ukiah high averages more than 145 yards on 6 catches a game.
Winning the Bay Valley Conference was the season’s goal. Doing so would earn Mendocino the program’s first bowl bid since 2009 — also the Eagles last winning campaign.
“That’s the ultimate reason we play,” Bowers said. “The longer our season goes the better.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE EAGLES
Mendocino College football
Coming up: Bay Valley Conference opener, Saturday, 1 p.m., at College of the Redwoods, Eureka
Notable: Mendocino College won conference championships in 1992, 1993,1997, 1999, 2005, 2007