A historic meeting between two football powerhouses ended as an emphatic statement by the Ferndale Wildcats as they shut out the Eureka Loggers 20-0 this past Saturday evening. A first time meeting in 29 years, the smallest school in the H-DN versus the largest school doesn't sound like a fair matchup however, it was a matchup that was talked about many times over the years. Could the reigning small school football champion Wildcats compete on the same field as the Division 3 power Loggers? However, take the right year, a favorable matchup and the right place at the right time and by golly what North Coast football fans got was a David versus Goliath kind of result.
Ferndale football fans waiting to see the Wildcats at their best this season certainly got their money's worth as the Cats dictated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The result was near 300 yards of offense by the Wildcats, while the Ferndale defense held Eureka to less than 100 yards from scrimmage. The game did not start favorably for the Cats as senior dynamo Justin Lang was knocked out of the game returning the first punt of the evening; the injury was a result of a late hit by the Loggers right in front of the Wildcat bench. Then on their first offensive play of the game, the Wildcats coughed up the ball, giving possession right back to the Loggers. The shaky start did not however deter the Cats as they dug deep and pulled off their best overall performance of the season to date.
Ferndale's running game was sensational right out of the gate. Their first offensive play of the game saw quarterback Kyle Chambers take off on a 16-yard scamper before the ball was jarred loose at the end of the play. Their second chance at the ball resulted in a five-play drive covering 75 yards to the Eureka end zone. Fullback Ike Townsend rumbled 55 of those yards in 3 rushes, running back Kaden Zanone covered 20 yards on just two plays, including the final seven to the end zone. After a quick possession by the Loggers, the Cats went back to work. Boosted by a determined effort from the offensive line, Townsend and Zanone were again off to the races. After a penalty and incomplete pass, the Cats covered 76 yards in just six plays, all by the backfield duo as they erupted through the line of scrimmage and into the Logger secondary. Zanone again found the end zone on a 12 yard run and the Cats led 12-0 just a minute and a half into the second quarter.
The score would remain at 12-0 through the half as the Wildcat PAT attempts were the only cylinder that was not firing in the first half of play. Halftime talks in the locker room had to be interesting as Ferndale had control of the game and the Cats were first to receive the ball as the third quarter commenced. Boosted by a 30-yard gallop by Kaden Zanone then a 23-yard gain through the air from quarterback Kyle Chambers to receiver Dakota Ward, the Wildcats marched right down and padded the score. This time it was fullback Ike Townsend doing the honors as his 7 yard run found pay dirt, the payoff for a five-play drive covering 65 yards. Ferndale converted a two point conversion run by Zanone and the 20-0 lead just minutes into the 3rd period and the momentum was firmly in the hands of the Wildcats.
From there the Ferndale defense did the rest. Just as they had done all game long, the Wildcat defenders swarmed to the ball. The result was a mere four first downs for Eureka. Despite a bevy of speedy backs in the Eureka lineup, there was just no running room versus the Ferndale front. The Cats recorded seven defensive stops for Logger losses, while Chris Catana, Hunter Van Emmerik and Townsend each recorded sacks of Eureka quarterback Alexis Robinson. Eureka backs Daniel Raxa and David Hernandez had some success running the ball, but four other backs who got their chance at the Wildcat defense resulted in negative yardage. The Loggers could have increased their chances with a passing game but QB Robinson went 0/6 through the air. Wildcat rushing plays accounted for 275 yards on the ground, mostly by Zanone and Townsend.
The Loggers did snag two turnovers from the Cats, a fumble recovery and an interception, both by senior standout Nathan Madsen. The injury early to Justin Lang could have had a negative impact on the Wildcat chances but as a team they just stepped it up. "Not so much me, but Ike came in and stepped it up. It was a loss not having Lang out there but we got the job done," said Kaden Zanone regarding not having senior Justin Lang in the run-oriented Wildcat backfield. The Cats took control of the game early, built a solid lead, though many held their breath wondering if Eureka would mount a comeback. Some like Ferndale senior defensive back Jacoby Hughes didn't feel safe to the final gun sounded. "Not to the very end did I think we had them. Hey I didn't care if we won 2-0, just to get this win is special." said a jubilant Hughes after the game.
Ferndale starts league play this Saturday at home versus Hoopa. The Cats will just be looking to get back to 100% healthy and get that initial win to open the league campaign. The Ferndale junior varsity also has injury issues and that was evident against Eureka as the Cats lost to a very good Logger team by a score of 41-7. Ferndale head JV coach Fran Cook is confident his team can rebound once they get key players back who were missing from that game.
Huskies host Del Norte Warriors for homecoming
The Fortuna Huskies got back on the winning track with a important league victory on the road at McKinleyville last Friday evening. The Huskies were coming off of two tough losses in prior weeks so the win improved the team to 1-1 in league and 3-2 overall. In fact it has been feast or famine for the Huskies as their three wins were all by impressive shutout margins, their two losses have been tough setbacks where "what if" could have seen things turned out different. If fact, the Huskies are yet to win a close, competitive game this season. That could all change as the Huskies host the Warriors this Friday night. Recently the Del Norte team has turned more to the air attack to balance out on offense and they gave the Arcata Tigers a good game for better than a half before coming up short last Friday night.
Last weekend the Huskies were the same team that started the season 2-0. Featuring a bruising running game, Fortuna racked up 282 yards on the ground against the Panthers. Cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them the week before, the Huskies held on to the ball and shut out McKinleyville 27-0. Fortuna's Brett Renner gained the bulk of the yardage, rushing 17 times for 128 yards. Speedy backs Colton Ross and Travis Milich also came up with some big plays. Those three playmakers each scored a touchdown in the Husky win. The Fortuna JV team also came away victorious in McKinleyville. Their 26-12 win makes them 2-0 in league play and 3-2 overall. For both the varsity and junior varsity this weekend's homecoming game versus Del Norte is an important turning point, as we near halfway through the season.
Photos by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon
1. The Ferndale Wildcat defense was aggressive and tackled with authority against the Eureka Loggers last Saturday night, here a trio of Cats take down Logger running back Daniel Raxa after a short gain. Ferndale pulled off a historic 20-0 win over Eureka in the first meeting on the football field between the two schools in 29 years.
2. Ferndale's Dakota Ward breaks into the open field after hauling in a pass from Wildcat quarterback Kyle Chambers. Eureka's David Hernandez closes in on defense. The Ward catch and run went for a 23 yard gain and was the only pass reception in the big game last Saturday evening. The Cats racked up 300 yards of offense and shut out Eureka on defense, a combination that produced a 20-0 victory for Ferndale.