Huskies hold on for homecoming win versus Warriors; Wildcats open league with decisive victory

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The Fortuna Huskies responded to a must-win situation Sept. 28 against the Del Norte Warriors with a harrowing homecoming victory that came down to the final play of the ballgame. The win kept the Huskies in the hunt for the top spot in the Big 5 Conference, as everyone is chasing the Arcata Tigers these days. Friday evening, Fortuna travels to Arcata to take on the Tigers at Humboldt State University, another must win situation if the Huskies have any intention of defending their 2011 league championship. Meanwhile, the Ferndale Wildcats opened Little 4 league play, posting a convincing win over their small school opponent. The Cats used a huge first quarter to jump to a 27-0 lead over visiting Hoopa, then cruised to a 33-point margin of victory.

The Fortuna Huskies proved Sept. 28 that they can win the close one, an important step as the season wears on. Perhaps it was homecoming that spurred on the Huskies -- the result was a thrilling 21-15 win over the Del Norte Warriors. The game started out with Del Norte getting the first break of the evening. After an initial possession by the Warriors, Del Norte punted away to Fortuna. On the Huskies very first offensive play of the evening the ball came loose and Del Norte's Matthew Garza recovered the fumble. The Fortuna defense stiffened but Del Norte came away with a 38-yard field goal by Nathan Porter and a 3-0 lead as a result of the turnover.

The Huskies responded with a sustained drive on their ensuing possession. Running the ball hard behind excellent work by the offensive line, backs Travis Milich and Brett Renner did the bulk of the work driving the ball to the Del Norte red zone. However, the Warrior defense dug in and on the 15th play of the drive, a Fortuna field goal attempt sailed wide. That sequence repeated itself as the first quarter ended and well into the second period. The Fortuna defense stopped Del Norte and the Husky offense drove down the field behind Milich and Renner, but the Warrior defense stopped that drive on a fourth down play. The score remained 3-0 until Fortuna caught their first big break of the game.

Once again stymied by the Fortuna defense, Del Norte's punt attempt went awry with a high snap and the Huskies took over 24 yards from pay dirt. Not wasting any time, the Husky ground game pounded away until Brett Renner ran in a 3-yard touchdown with 3:39 left until the half. A PAT kick by Bryant Head gave Fortuna a 7-3 lead. For the third straight possession, Del Norte was a quick four and out and Fortuna went back to work on offense. This time the Huskies hit quickly as just three plays into the drive, quarterback Jacob Hough avoided the defensive rush and threw deep to a streaking Kyle Wiegman. A catch and run to the end zone accounted for 55 yards and the Huskies upped their lead to 14-3 after the Head extra point kick through the uprights.

Del Norte had one of their better, sustained drives to end the first half but were unable to change the score going into the locker room. The start of the second half saw Fortuna get a break on a Del Norte fumble as Dylan Burley got the big hit to jar the ball loose and lineman Thomas Roberts recovered for the Huskies. Fortuna was unable to cash in as the Del Norte defense rose up to force a field goal attempt that missed the mark. The third quarter eclipsed without further scoring as both teams had their chances, but the defenses held firm and forced punts by both Del Norte then Fortuna. As the final period commenced, Del Norte mounted a drive that took them the the Fortuna red zone.

Converting on a slant pass of 9 yards from quarterback Dylan Pease to receiver Nathan Porter, the Warriors had their first touchdown of the evening. The PAT kick attempt hit the uprights and the Huskies still led 14-9. Just when it appeared the Huskies next offensive drive held little promise, quarterback Jacob Hough hit Travis Milich with a middle screen that fooled the Del Norte defense and Milich knew what to do with the ball as he streaked 71 yards to the house. The Bryant Head PAT kick took the home team to a 21-9 lead and with 9:43 to play Fortuna was in good shape. All Del Norte did was come right back, mixing the run and the pass, the Warriors answered with a 23-yard touchdown run by Jordan Carpenter. A Porter PAT kick brought the score to 21-15 and with 6:23 to play, no one in the stands was going to leave early on this night.

The Huskies hoped to put the ball game away with a sustained drive and converted one fourth down to keep the sticks moving but a second attempt on a fourth down conversion was stopped cold by a solid tackle from Del Norte's Nappolie Shorty. Del Norte took over at their own 13 yard line with 2:04 remaining. Del Norte converted their own fourth down attempt to keep their final drive moving and a Fortuna pass interference call took the ball into Husky territory. The Warriors took the ball down the field and had a first down just inside the Husky 20-yard line. With little time remaining, the Warriors threw three straight passes incomplete, the final play snapped at just :03 on the clock. Game over; Huskies won in the most dramatic fashion.

The duo of Travis Milich and Brett Renner combined for 178 yards rushing but it was two big pass plays that were the difference makers for the Huskies. The Fortuna defense was led by Tyler Graham and Carlos Meraz who were both in on nine tackles. Fortuna hopes the momentum of the big win carries over to this Friday's game at Arcata. The Huskies will have to hold on to the ball better this time around as the Arcata loss just weeks prior saw several turnovers by Fortuna. Other homecoming results saw the senior girls take the junior girls big time in the powder puff game by a score of 47-8. The Huskies junior varsity lost to Del Norte on the football field 33-14.

The Fortuna girls soccer team lost a heartbreaker versus Arcata in a battle for first place by a score of 1-0. It was a even battle and Husky goalie Katrina Cahill played tough in the box, but the offense just couldn't get the ball in goal at the other end. The boys however, earned a tie with the Arcata Tigers as those two teams also battled it out for tops in the conference. It was a very physical game that saw Fortuna score first on Dylan Moreno's first half goal but in the second half Arcata's Forrest Lewis matched it with his goal. The young Huskies squad played well and with a lot of heart according to coach Daniel Holmes and the game ended at 1-1. The two teams meet again in the season finale.

Across the river, the Ferndale Wildcats won big over Hoopa in their league football opener. Both Ike Townsend and Kyle Chambers scored a pair of touchdowns and the Cats cruised to a 47-14 victory. The junior varsity Cats also won big over Hoopa by a score of 45-7. Ferndale quarterback Bradley Martin scored a touchdown, recovered a Warrior fumble and had an interception. Fullback Clayton Wiseman also reached the end zone with his first half touchdown. Halfback Cody Allen scored two touchdowns, one a 32 yard scamper that had all the Hoopa defenders grabbing air as he wove his way through would-be tacklers. Placekicker Ryan Klopper kicked a 20-yard field goal, backup QB Kyle Burns ran in a 2-yard touchdown and the Ferndale defense ended the game with a safety. This just past Tuesday saw the Lady Cats volleyball team get their biggest win of the season up in Hoopa. The match went five games before the Cats came from behind to win 3-2. Scores were Ho 25-17, Ho 25-21, Fe 25-20, Fe 25-12, Fe 15-11.

Photo by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

The Fortuna Huskies offensive front stands ready to do battle with the Del Norte defense as quarterback Jacob Hough stands over center. The Huskies' elevated line play has paved the way for big plays by the Fortuna runningbacks and last Friday night's 21-15 win over the Warriors was a perfect puctuation to homecoming activities.