48th Milk Can Game this Friday; Lady Huskies top Wildcats in prep volleyball

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The 48th edition of the annual Milk Can Game between the Ferndale Wildcats and the Fortuna Huskies will take place this Friday evening at Fortuna High. The once yearly battle for Eel River Valley bragging rights on the football field is the most anticipated high school rivalry event on the North Coast. Attendance will be huge as the Fortuna Huskies look to reverse a trend in recent years that have seen the Ferndale Wildcats win 10 of the last 11 contests. The infamous can has remained in the hands of the Cats as year after year Ferndale has hoisted the prize possession over their heads after the final buzzer has sounded, last year's thriller ended in a 20-14 score.

This season's match up will feature two teams that have already recorded lopsided victories in addition to bitter defeat. The Fortuna Huskies have had their injury problems already this young season and have had key players unavailable. Outstanding senior and two-way starter Jack Rovai has been lost for the season with a concussion. Fellow senior Patrick Daly also suffered a concussion in week one and will be a last minute decision come game time. Linebacker Robbie Yates was lost to injury in the Eureka contest and speedster Josh Jorgensen has come back from an ankle injury and he provided a spark in the Arcata victory. "You want to be healthy for a big game like this, but it is what it is, the kids will go out and play hard this Friday," said Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow.

Meanwhile, the Ferndale Wildcats have had a few injuries of their own but have also had a bye week to heal up those bumps and bruises. This year's version of the Wildcats is a young group and the team has experienced much growth through two games. With a big win versus Arcata and a lopsided loss at McClymonds, the Cats are looking to stabilize the results and pull off another big win in the Milk Can rivalry. Both teams feature a variety of weapons with the tough rushing yardage coming from Ferndale's Ike Townsend and Fortuna's Brett Renner. Both teams possess a scat back in the form of Ferndale's Zach Rocha and Fortuna's Gavin Lewis. Outside speed will come from Wildcat receiver Wyatt Standley and the Huskies wide out Josh Jorgensen. The battle in the trenches and the battle of the turnovers and big plays will surely decide the outcome.

The junior varsity contest will also be a good one as the Fortuna Huskies are coming in unbeaten. The Huskies are coming off last weekend's 39-0 win at Arcata. The Huskies are riding high with a win at Eureka and the early jump in the Big 5 standings. The JV Cats lost two weeks ago down at McClymonds. Ferndale was very competitive in that contest but came up short 20-14. The result came down to three big plays by the opponents, something that the Cats will have to work on in preparation for the game against the big play Huskies.

Fortuna versus Ferndale volleyball action: The Fortuna Huskies and Ferndale Wildcats girls volleyball programs are well acquainted with each other after meeting twice this past week at both teams home court. It has been many years since Ferndale has beat Fortuna in girls varsity volleyball however, the Lady Cats came agonizingly close to that big win last Thursday in Ferndale. Taking the visiting Huskies to a five set match, the Wildcats lost momentum in the final set as Fortuna hung on for a 3-2 win. Scores were Fortuna 25-23, Ferndale 21-25, Fortuna 25-22, Ferndale 25-20 and Fortuna 15-7. Fortuna outside hitter Nicole Johnson has emerged as a force on the team as her kill attempts come from the front row at net or well back in the middle of the court, matters not as she can hammer a winner home.

Both teams faced tough competition at separate tournaments over last weekend and wins were hard to come by. Ferndale went up 101 to the Arcata Tournament and lost to Weed, Yreka and McKinleyville to come home empty handed. Fortuna traveled to the 15th Annual Nor-Cal Tournament in Vallejo and won just one of five matches. The Huskies lost to Galileo, Westmoor, St. Vincent and San Rafael before rebounding with a 2-0 win over Pinole Valley. First year head coach Jackie Martin who is also a 2007 graduate of Fortuna High is learning a lot about her squad. "We got a lot of game reps in and have a really good idea of our strengths and weaknesses to work on in practice," said Martin on the tournament experience.

Ferndale and Fortuna again faced off this just past Tuesday evening and the varsity match went to the Huskies by a score of 3-1, set scores were 25-21, 21-25, 25-14 and 25-18. Nicole Johnson had 24 digs, 9 kills and 3 aces on serve. Nicole Tompkins had 15 digs, 20 assists and 4 aces. Brittany Carvalho had 7 kills, Tia McNaughton had 13 digs and Morgan Harwood added 10 digs and 10 assists. Ferndale was led by Maci Branstetter who combined several kills, tips and drops shots at net for critical points. Meagan Earley found her kill technique just in time and nailed timely points in the second set win by the Wildcats. Corabelle Esmailian, Anna Gomes and Nicole Vollmer all exhibited all-around play that will pay dividends for Ferndale later in the schedule. The Huskies head out of town for tournament action this weekend while the Wildcats take a break in the schedule.

Six Rivers youth football action: The Six Rivers Youth Football League will be in their third week of the schedule this Sunday when the Ferndale Mustangs travel to the Eel River Valley Huskies for the Mini Milk Can series. The undefeated Single A Mustangs will take on the unbeaten Huskies in the 10 a.m. contest. Ferndale is coming off a 44-0 drubbing of the Southern Humboldt Bulldogs, while the ERV team shut out the Redwood Youth team by a 38-0 score on Sept. 15. In the Double AA division game slated for noon, it will be the Mustangs taking on the undefeated Huskies White team. Ferndale is fresh off their home win versus Southern Humboldt, 32-13 while Eel River shut down Curry by a 32-7 score. In the 7th-8th grade AAA Division Ferndale will face off against the ERV Huskies White at 2:00. The Mustangs have a record of 1-1 while the Huskies are looking for their first win of the season. In addition the ERV AAA Blue Huskies will play Eureka in the early game, kickoff slated for 8 a.m. and ERV AA Blue will close out a busy day at Fortuna High with a 4 p.m. game versus Arcata.

Photos by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

1. Ferndale's Meagan Earley (11) and Fortuna's Pyper Daniels (4) both go for the volleyball at the top of the net as the Wildcats played host to the Huskies for a preseason match on Sept. 12. The varsity match went to a fifth and final set when Fortuna pulled ahead for the win, 3 sets to 2. Nicole Johnson led Fortuna with 13 kills while Ferndale was led by seniors Earley and Maci Branstetter. The Cats won the junior varsity contest, 2-0.

2. Ferndale Mustang Single A defender Carl Nunes (34) draws a bead on Southern Humboldt quarterback Austin Willison (16) to make a nice open field tackle as the two teams faced off on Sept. 15 in the Cream City. Nunes made some plays on defense and offensively took off for a 69 yard touchdown run in the second half of the Mustangs' 44-0 win.