The Del Norte football team turned on the jets in the second half of its season opener agaisnt Piner on Saturday and turned what was a tightly contested game into a comfortable 33-18 victory at Whalen Field.
Del Norte head coach Ray Rook thought the Prospectors would provide a stiff challenge for the Warriors in their first game of the season and he was not disapointed.
“I want to thank Piner for coming up here,” Rook said. “They have a great team and they are going to do well this year. They play hard.”
The Warriors got off to a slow start offensively with three-and-outs on their first two possessions. On the first play of the third drive, senior quarterback Steven Maready had the football knocked out of his hands and straight into the hands of an oncoming lineman, who returned the ball 25 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
Del Norte was quick to respond, however. On the Warriors’ next play from scrimmage, Maready found Healy on a crossing route over the middle of the field. Healy made the catch about 10 to 15 yards downfield, juuked a couple defenders and raced into the end zone for an 86-yard score.
“We saw that there was no saftey so we ran Healy over the middle hoping that we could get a big play and we got it,” Rook said. “That was a good way to get us started.”
Del Norte went on to score 20 unanswered points as Maready found junior wide reciever Landon McAlexander for touchdown throws of 25 and 6 yards.
It was Warrior fans’ first look at what Rook called his best passing offense since he has been Del Norte’s head coach.
The Warriors’ passing game, though still secondary to their rushing attack, was incredibly efficient. Maready finished the day 8-of-14 for 206 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions through the air.
“We are definitely throwing a lot more than last year,” Maready said. “It is more fun. We have some good recievers to throw to and it is a nice addition to our game.”
Healy finished the game with 112 yards and a touchdown on two catches. Rook has said Healy will be the team’s primary recieving weapon this season.
“It is hard for DBs to guard him. I could throw it to him every time. He is quick and he is very seamless with his routes. I try to guard him and it is hard,” said Maready, who also plays saftey for Del Norte.
McAlexander was making his varsity debut and finished with five catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
“McAlexander broke out of his junior shell today,” Rook said. “He stepped up and made some plays over the middle. He caught the ball well and he got himself open by getting into the soft spot a couple times like we teach them. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The Warriors’ final two touchdowns came on the ground. Senior Chad Bell took a pitch around the right side of the line for a three-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter and Chee Shorty found the end zone from seven yards out midway through the fourth quarter.”
Del Norte will head on the road for the first time this season for its Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 league opener in McKinleyville on Friday.