Huskies have shut out three opponents this season
The lingering image of Del Norte's 33-22 loss to Arcata on Sept. 21 - the Warriors' Homecoming game - was the sight of Tigers running back Tyler Keil running wild in the second half.
Keil gashed what had been a stout Del Norte defense for five touchdowns of 55, 6, 59, 43 and 56 yards, with the first four coming in the third quarter alone. The Warriors' 7-0 halftime lead seemed a distant memory after 12 minutes of game clock.
"A couple of guys didn't get to where they were supposed to be," Del Norte head coach Ray Rook said. "Arcata didn't do anything fancy.
"(The Warriors) knew it was right there for them to take. They know what to correct. I couldn't be happier with how we played. Take those five plays away, it could've played out a lot differently."
Any Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League title or playoff aspirations the Warriors (2-3, 1-1 Big 5) hold are bolstered by a defense that has allowed 14 fourth-quarter points and 34 third-quarter points in its five games. It has been opportunistic, forcing at least two turnovers in its league games against Arcata and McKinleyville.
It is also improving, as the young talent - four seniors see regular time in the rotation - coalesces with the scheme.
"We're just building from top to bottom," Rook said. "If (the line) up front executes, it makes the second level better. It all goes back.
"We're gaining experience. Knowing jobs, diagnosing sets - we're getting better every day."
Fortuna, Del Norte's opponent on Friday, has a pretty good defense in its own right, posting three shutouts on the year. Two of those came against common opponents, Healdsburg (37-0, on August 31) and McKinleyville (27-0, on Sept. 21). Both the Warriors and the Huskies (3-2, 1-1) have lost to Ferndale and Arcata this season.
The reigning Big 5 League champions boast a pair of talented senior running backs in Kevin Milch and Colton Ross and a young quarterback on the rise in junior Jacob Hough.
The Huskies will hold their Homecoming celebrations on Friday night, a 180-degree swing of emotions for Del Norte.
"I hope we ruin their homecoming," Rook said.
After the Fortuna game, the Warriors enter a bye week before playing on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Arcata. Junior varsity play begins at 4 p.m., followed by the varsity game at 6:30 p.m.
New assistant coach
Rook's coaching staff now stands at nine members (including junior varsity personnel) after taking on volunteer assistant Kenny Price three weeks ago.
Price has been working with Del Norte's outside linebackers and defensive backs. He also assists with Del Norte Youth Football.
"He's been a nice addition to the staff," Rook said. "He's knowledgeable. The kids seem to like him."
Reach Robert Husseman at firstname.lastname@example.org.