Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

3 lost fumbles, lost battle in trenches doom Del Norte

The West Valley High football team from Cottonwood made itself at home at Mike Whalen Field on Friday night, rushing out to a 41-0 halftime lead on host Del Norte en route to a 41-7 victory.

The Warriors failed to cross midfield until the third quarter - on a fumbled long snap by the Eagles - and failed to score until Jordan Carpenter's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Del Norte amassed 189 yards of total offense to the 310 yards of West Valley, which is competing in Division II of the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Section.

Del Norte was beaten in the trenches, failing to control the line of scrimmage on offense and get off the Eagles' blocks on defense. West Valley used its jet-sweep packages to freeze the Warriors' outside defenders and controlled the middle with its option runs, passing only when it needed to - and to great effect.

In summation: 238 rushing yards on 40 carries for the Eagles, and four completed passes - on four attempts - for 72 yards. When Del Norte made defensive stops in the second half, they came much too late.

West Valley tailback Austin Clark, an all-Northern Athletic League selection as a sophomore, ran with impeccable balance and broke tackles seemingly at will. He had an 18-yard rushing touchdown and a 48-yard catch-and-run for another score.

Eagles fullback Brady Casselman capped the seven-play, 55-yard opening drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown. It was one of three trips to the end zone for Casselman on the night.

The opening drive, however, was one of only five drives - out of 13 total - that the Eagles began in their own territory.

Warriors quarterback Aaron Fitch, a junior starting his third career game on the varsity squad, fumbled on consecutive possessions in the first quarter and lost both. Both times, the Eagles began drives inside the Del Norte 40-yard line. Both times, the Eagles scored rushing touchdowns.

Fitch also struggled as the Warriors punter, with kicks of 14 yards and 27 yards to West Valley in the first half. Neither punt crossed midfield, and the Eagles scored on both ensuing drives.

Dylan Pease's second-quarter fumble on a kickoff return led to another short field for West Valley and, eventually, a 2-yard touchdown run by Marcus Simmons with 30 seconds remaining in the half.

Del Norte fumbled five times and recovered two of them, while the Eagles lost both of their fumbles.

The fourth quarter of the game was played under a running clock.

West Valley JV 28, Del Norte JV 0

West Valley's Brandon Jones returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown against the Del Norte junior varsity team as the Eagles' junior varsity squad won 28-0 on Friday afternoon.

The Warriors fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter and struggled in the red zone, failing to capitalize on a number of opportunities.

Austin Healy made one of the biggest plays of the game on defense for Del Norte, with an interception that spurred on the end of the first half.

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