Mark Lourenzo/Beacon Correspondent
If nothing else, the Fortuna Huskies can thank the Del Norte Warriors for providing the most exciting Husky wins of this football season. Three weeks prior, the Warriors were denied victory at Fortuna High on the final play of the game, as the Huskies celebrated their homecoming with a 21-15 win. The two teams did battle once more, this time in Crescent City on Oct. 19, and the finish outdid the first meeting, when the game went into overtime and Fortuna pulled out a miraculous 41-40 victory.
The contest last Friday night showed the best and at times the worst of this season's Huskies team. The first half saw Fortuna struggle with wet, sloppy conditions, penalties and turnovers. However, a tough Husky defense and their offensive determination helped build a 14-point lead by intermission. A Del Norte fumble on a punt attempt led to Fortuna's first score of the night, a 3-yard touchdown run by back Brett Renner. Del Norte answered with a second quarter score following the same scenario. A botched Husky punt attempt on a muddy field was smothered by the Warriors and one play later, running back Chad Bell went 33 yards for a Del Norte touchdown and a tie score at seven apiece.
Del Norte followed with a onside kickoff attempt that gave Fortuna a short field to work with and a grinding 13 play drive culminated with a 2-yard TD run by Travis Milich. Fortuna's final possession of the first half followed a Del Norte fumble and three plays later, Kalen Barcelos slashed in from 13 yards out. Bryant Head kicked his third successful PAT of the evening and the Huskies held a 21-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Fortuna came out for the second half and had the ball first however, penalties and later a fumble stopped that drive. The next two possessions by the Huskies were a different story. After stopping Del Norte on downs, Fortuna needed just three plays to score. Quarterback Jacob Hough dashed 48 yards to a touchdown, after a beautiful fake in the backfield to the up-back. Then came the Huskies next possession, one that saw them backed up against their own goal line. No problem, as slot back Colton Ross exploded off right tackle, going 91 yards to the Warriors' end zone.
Fortuna did miss the ensuing PAT attempt due to a low snap in the wet, Head never getting his foot into the ball however, the Huskies held a commanding 34-7 lead with 2:04 left in the third period. Perhaps some fans even headed for the exits, but that was when the wheels fell off the Fortuna bus. First Del Norte cashed in on a 79-yard TD run by Chad Bell, then a Dylan Pease pass to Aaron Fitch went for a 55-yard touchdown. A Nathan Porter PAT with 8:45 remaining in the game cut Del Norte's deficit to 34-21. Though Fortuna ate five minutes of clock on their next drive, that possession ended on a fumbled punt attempt, giving Del Norte another golden opportunity.
The Warriors went right to the bank with that blank check and a Jordan Carpenter run to the Husky end zone was followed by a PAT to make it 34-28. Fortuna tried to ice the game and pushed the ball to midfield with time running short however, facing 4th and 2 yards to go, the Del Norte defense came up big with a stop. With two minutes to work with, Del Norte moved the ball to the red zone and with :04 on the clock, a QB Pease pass to Fitch tied the game at 34 apiece. A controversial flag on the ensuing PAT attempt backed up Del Norte five yards and the Fortuna defense rose up to block the kick, sending the game to overtime.
The Warriors had first possession of the OT and took four plays, but cashed in with a touchdown pass. Once again the Warriors PAT attempt would come back to haunt them as the kick sailed right of the goal posts. Fortuna wasted no time on their OT possession and just one play got Colton Ross into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. Fortuna placekicker Bryant Head went out and calmly kicked the ball right down the middle of the up-rights for the game winning PAT. The Fortuna faithful erupted with the 41-40 victory and Del Norte was left wondering "what if" and how did that miraculous comeback go wrong.
Head was a perfect 5 for 5 in PAT kicks for the night and improved to 25 for 28 attempts on the season. An elated Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow was quoted after the game concerning Head's kicking ability, "We recruited him from soccer for a reason." Colton Ross ended the game with 145 yards and two touchdowns on just 5 carries. Quarterback Jacob Hough rushed for 81 yards and completed six passes for 78 yards. Wideout Kyle Wiegman caught five of those passes for 77 yards receiving. The offensive line play of Ryan Erickson, Dylan Burley, Diego Garcia, Josh Simmons, Russell Kadle and Dominic Eastburn was impressive, Erickson also recovered a fumble. Friday night is senior night for the Huskies as they host McKinleyville for their final home game of the regular season.