Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Warriors cannot find end zone on final 12-play drive

One last drive ultimately came up 25 yards short.

Del Norte junior Aaron Fitch could not come down with Dylan Pease's last-gasp attempt at the end zone with three seconds remaining as the Fortuna Huskies topped the Warriors, 21-15, on Friday night in Fortuna.

Down 21-9 with 9:43 remaining in the game, Del Norte (2-4 overall, 1-2 Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League) cobbled together an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped with a 22-yard touchdown run by junior Jordan Carpenter. (Nathan Porter's extra-point attempt failed.)

Fortuna (4-2, 2-1) responded by grinding out a 12-play drive entirely on the ground. Facing a fourth-and-4 situation from the Huskies' 14-yard line, Fortuna quarterback Jacob Hough kept the ball but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by sophomore linebacker Napooi Shorty.

While the Del Norte defense created numerous opportunities, the offense produced too few points over too long a stretch.

The Warriors gained 17 yards of offense in the first quarter to Fortuna's 58 yards, but Del Norte took a 3-0 lead on Porter's 37-yard field goal.

Sophomore middle linebacker Kevin Anderson, a junior varsity call-up starting his first career game in place of Dalton Alexandre (excused absence), recovered a fumble on the Huskies' second play of the game at the Warriors' 25-yard line, helping to set up Porter's kick. Fortuna kicker Bryant Head received an opportunity to put the Huskies on the board from 29 yards away - on a 15-play drive that included three third-down conversions - but his kick failed.

Fortuna forced Del Norte into a second-quarter three-and-out when a long snap went over Warriors punter Aaron Fitch's head. Fitch collected the ball and got an incomplete pass off, allowing the Huskies to take over at the Del Norte 24-yard line. Huskies running back Brett Renner punched the ball into the end zone from a yard out five plays later.

The Huskies forced another Warriors three-and-out with two minutes remaining and capitalized on it, as Hough found Kyle Wiegman on a 55-yard touchdown pass. Del Norte moved the ball into Fortuna territory but failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt.

The third quarter was played to a stalemate as the Huskies struggled to run the ball on the Warriors, amassing nine yards on seven carries. In two full possessions, Fortuna missed a 27-yard field goal and went three-and-out deep in its own territory. Del Norte had forced the Huskies to punt early in the first drive of the second half, but Fitch fumbled the return and Fortuna recovered at the Warriors' 38-yard line, a short-field opportunity that was not capitalized upon.

Pease found Porter on a 10-yard touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter, bringing the Huskies within five points. (Both of Porter's extra-point kicks were no good.) On the third play of the ensuing drive, Hough found Fortuna running back Jason Milich for a 70-yard catch-and run touchdown to put Del Norte behind by two scores.

Pease completed 14 of his 29 pass attempts for 142 yards in the loss. He found Porter and Fitch five times apiece for a combined 117 yards receiving. Carpenter finished with 91 yards rushing on the night.

Hough went 4-of-12 passing for 152 yards in the game. Milich finished with 76 yards rushing in testing the Warriors early on.

Del Norte largely passed the test of its rushing defense, one week after allowing five touchdowns on the ground in a loss to Arcata. The Warriors allowed Fortuna 51 of the Huskies' 159 rushing yards in the second half.

In the junior varsity game, Del Norte improved to 3-0 in Big 5 Conference play (5-1 overall) with a 34-14 victory over Fortuna.

The Warriors are off for next week before facing Eureka on Saturday, Oct. 13.