Saturday, October 10, 2015

Football In The Great Wide Open

Tucked away in the northwest part of extreme Northern California is Humboldt State University. It's a beautiful campus in Arcata, California. I've heard of the school, but didn't think anything of it until my cousin Billy, who plays for Azuza Pacific University (never heard of APU until Billy went there), played Humboldt State over the weekend.
So my cousins and I set a about a long road trip........a very long road trip. 
They picked me up in Suisun, California, which was on the way on Hwy 12. They had already been in the car for six hours. We would be in the car for another six hours. 
When we left after picking me up, along the way you can see the state changing. I live in what's called the North Bay, which sits along the northern end of the California Delta region. Lots of channels and waterways that takes boats out to the Pacific.
We passed wine country, the coastal ranges, and eventually in to the Redwood Empire. 
Now my family is from Southern California. The north state was a different world to them. 
The air was clean and fresh with a crispness to it. They live in smog. To them, the weather was a treat, and it made me happy that they were enjoying the scenery. 
We finally made it to Eureka. (Eureka we finally found it! It's the state motto to those of you outside California.)
My family was hungry and by accident, we ate at the same restaurant as the APU football players were having their team meal. So we got to chat with Billy for a few moments before he had to go back to his team meal. They ate in a separate hall and we could hear them laugh, tell stories and applaud one another when their names were called. It was fried chicken night at The Samoa Cookhouse. It was a wonderful meal and we ate a "family style" dinner. We passed plates of food to one another and ate everything off our plates. (We went back for breakfast the next day. Thank you Samoa Cookhouse for making me gain five pounds!)
On to the game. Humboldt football is a big deal. The whole town looks forward to the season, and the Redwood Bowl is filled to capacity for every home game.
The Redwood Bowl is a great place to watch a football game. Redwood trees tower over the field, and the other athletic facilities are top notch. I was expecting a beat up old stadium that was falling apart. It makes Hornet Field in Sacramento look bad. 
As for the team itself, Humboldt was ranked number six in the country in Division 1 AA. Their offense is explosive as they score 55 to 62 points a game. 
My cousin Richard said it was the weirdest offense he ever saw and he couldn't really describe why. He said I would have to see it for myself. I agree with cousin Richard, it was a very unusual offense. They run the ball, and run the ball all night long. Their running back, Ja'Quan Gardner, had 100 yards rushing.......in the first quarter! He eventually finished with 305 yards rushing. That young man is gonna play professionally somewhere. I would say he'll be playing on Sundays, but he has CFL written all over him, and the CFL plays a weird weekly schedule.
Cousin Billy had four tackles. (Side note- NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater told Billy's parents and I that Billy is a very good football player and APU is lucky to have him. What a compliment! And what an unexpected treat to meet Mr. Slater.)
Humboldt and their offense had a tough fight against APU's defense. I imagine other coaches who'll soon be playing Humboldt will be watching APU's defensive game film to figure out how APU held Humboldt to 34 points.
After the game, we went down to the field and spoke to Billy. He had to rush off to the bus. Not to go back to the hotel, but back to Glendora. (Azuza and Glendora are right next to each other. The school straddles the border of both towns.) That was a very long over night bus ride. (Funny thing is the team flew into Sacramento, then bussed it up to Eureka. I guess a small school couldn't afford to fly them back.)
On the way home this morning, very early this morning, we were talking about next years trip back to Eureka. I loved it. I rediscovered a part of California I haven't been to since 1985. Also went in 1983 and I thought Eureka was another planet. But that's another story. 
I have another reason to go back to Eureka next summer. The Humboldt Crabs of the collegiate summer league baseball fame play ball just next to the Humboldt State campus. A future blog post!

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