Fortuna Huskies regain the Milk Can with 19-6 win; ball control offense turns the tide

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The Fortuna Huskies played ball control offense, dominating time of possession and field position for a 19-6 win in the 48th edition of the historic Milk Can game, held Sept. 20 at Fortuna High. The Huskies used the trio of quarterback Jacob Hough, running backs Brett Renner and Gavin Lewis to chew up the yardage on a wet field. Though footing was not a issue, the conditions did limit the speed and explosiveness of both teams. The Fortuna offensive line found the conditions just fine, as they paved the way for the running game and the Huskies gained 231 net yards on the ground. Fortuna quarterback Jacob Hough was just 3 for 9 passing -- however, two of the completions were big plays going to Zach Hugh and totaled 38 yards gained.

Fortuna set the tone for the evening with their first possession of the ball game. The Huskies held on to the ball for 14 plays, methodically going 67 yards to the Ferndale end zone. Running back Brett Renner would travel the final two yards to the touchdown. It would be the first of three touchdown runs on the evening for the talented back with strong ties to the Ferndale side of the river. Things did not go so well for the Ferndale Wildcats in the first half of play. The Cats had short possessions on their first three drives in the game and took just a dozen offensive snaps by the midway point of the second quarter. By then, the Huskies had scored their second touchdown, a 16 yard gallop by Renner.

After falling behind 13-0, the Cats mounted their first sustained drive of the evening behind the running of backs Ike Townsend and Cody Allen. The speedy Allen ran the final 3 yards to get the Wildcats on the board and trailing just 13-6, it appeared to be anyone's ball game as half-time neared. Appearances were deceptive though, despite plenty of game yet to play, it just was not going to be Ferndale's night. Three Wildcats turnovers did not help the effort. Fortuna lineman Thomas Roberts recovered a Ferndale fumble, as did Nolan Cahill on the Wildcats first offensive play of the second half. Brett Renner would later add a fourth-quarter interception.

Ferndale had a magical winning streak going in these Milk Can games, winning 10 of the last 11 classics coming into the Sept. 20 matchup. During that stretch, the Wildcats had many times reached into their bags of tricks. Sometimes parlaying a trick play into a touchdown, turning the momentum around with a timely turnover or scoring on a special teams play, just when the Cats needed that something magical. But there was none of that on Sept. 20. Even the two fumble recoveries by Ferndale (Briceland Franklin) did not lead to any points on the board. The minutes ticked by without that game changing play until the final buzzer indicated the end.

"It was our magical night," sounded Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow after the big win. "It's all about pressure and making plays, that's what we talked about. It was a great game plan and they executed," added Benbow on his teams efforts. With can in hand, the Huskies move on to another important matchup this Friday night when they travel to Crescent City and take on the Del Norte Warriors. Though the Huskies have a winning streak of several games against the Warriors, there is much at stake in the Big 5 standings. Ferndale meanwhile will host the team from Argonaut High this Saturday; the Mustangs handed the Cats their only loss last season.

The Ferndale at Fortuna junior varsity game was a mild upset as the Wildcats put together a stellar effort for a 20-7 win over the Huskies. Fortuna came in unbeaten but the rainy conditions and a stout defensive effort by the Cats shut down what has been an explosive Husky offense. Ferndale opened the scoring on a 65-yard breakaway run by back Clayton Wiseman. The Ferndale PAT failed and Fortuna answered with a big pass play that set up Cole Halley's 3 yard touchdown run. Fortuna's successful PAT gave them a lead but Ferndale scored on an 18-yard misdirection run by scatback Ryan Earley with only :15 on the clock.

Fortuna had poor field position for most of the third quarter and Ferndale mounted a scoring drive that started at midfield. Converting on a fourth-and-2 play, the Cats then broke open a hole for Wiseman who rumbled 30 yards down to the Huskies one yard line. Back Clayton Wiseman punched it in from there and Ferndale opened their 20-7 lead. Fortuna just could not get anything going offensively and no big plays were in the cards for the Huskies in the final period. Ferndale ran out the clock with one final possession and the win was in the books. Though running back Wiseman got most of the yardage in the game it was quite a team effort by the JV Wildcats.

Photo by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

The Fortuna Huskies gather for a postgame picture after their stirring win over the Ferndale Wildcats in the 48th Edition of the Milk Can Game. For just the second time in a dozen years, the Huskies won the annual battle between the two Eel River Valley rivals with their 19-6 victory.