The Del Norte football team played the role of homecoming spoiler on Friday, beating McKinleyville 22-21 in a closely contested game for the Panthers’ homecoming.
Trailing 21-14 with less than three minutes in the fourth quarter, Del Norte engineered what would be the game’s winning drive.
Quarterback Steve Maready lead the Warriors 66 yards down the field, capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Dylan Pease to pull within a point of McKinleyville.
“Our team fought,” said football coach Ray Rook. “When the chips were down, they fought through it and were able to come back.”
Trailing by one point, Del Norte head coach Ray Rook decided to go for the win with a two-point conversion. Chad Bell took the handoff around the left side and into the end zone to give the Warriors the 22-21 lead with 1:36 left.
“I have confidence in our guys that they can make a play,” Rook said of his decision to go for the two-point conversion. “We thought it was something we would try to see what would happen and they did it.”
McKinleyville got the ball back in good field position after a kickoff return up to the 40 yard line. The Panthers drove all the way to the Del Norte 30 before going backwards due to penalties.
On the last play of the game, McKinleyville quarterback Laine Grace was looking for a Hail Mary, but got sacked by senior Cristian Puente.
Del Norte looked like it might run away with the game early. The Warriors jumped all over McKinleyville at the start of the game. Just seconds into the first quarter, Del Norte grabbed the lead when junior Chad Bell broke loose on the opening kickoff return, taking the ball 85 yards for a touchdown.
“That definitely got us some good momentum and got us off to a good start,” Rook said.
The Warriors defense stepped up and held McKinleyville to three-and-out in its first two possessions.
Junior running back Jackson Evans capped a 44-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to take a 14-0 lead with 2:17 left in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, McKinleyville started to come to life offensively. After failing to cross midfield in the first quarter, the Panthers started with the ball on the Del Norte 35 in their first possession of the second quarter.
McKinleyville drove the ball down to the Del Norte 3-yard line before the drive stalled. The Warriors came up with a big stop on fourth down to regain possession.
The Warrior offense seemed to regain its stride, driving the ball 77 yards on nine plays. The Del Norte drive stalled, however, when senior quarterback Dylan Pease threw his second interception of the season on first and 10 on the McKinleyville 20-yard line.
McKinleyville dominated the second and third quarters, scoring 21 straight points to grab the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The victory was Del Norte’s second in a row. They are currently 3-4 for the year, and 3-2 in the Humbolt-Del Norte Big 5.