The strength of the Del Norte High varsity football team is in its offensive backfield. With senior Jordan Carpenter and juniors Chad Bell and Matthew Coopman, the Warriors have multiple options for carrying the ball against an opponent. On Friday night at Mike Whalen Field, with Del Norte hosting Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League foe McKinleyville, the Warriors tested their running back depth with great results.
Coopman, Bell and Carpenter each scored two touchdowns and Del Norte rushed for 295 yards on 42 carries in a 40-13 victory over the Panthers.
The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Warriors (1-1 overall, 1-0 HDN Big 5) dating back to the 2012 season. Del Norte is also tied atop the HDN Big 5 League with Eureka, who defeated Fortuna on Friday night. (Arcata has yet to play a Big 5 opponent.)
As the Warriors got their ground game going against the Panthers (0-2, 0-1 HDN Big 5), they were equally adept at shutting down McKinleyville's rushing attack. The Panthers managed 43 yards on 30 rushes, and 114 yards overall.
Carpenter got the ball rolling in the first quarter with a 20-yard touchdown run. Carpenter tried to run along the right side of the field; when McKinleyville bottled him up, he managed to cut back to the left side. Blocks from the Warriors' offensive line and Chad Bell downfield cleared a pathway to the end zone.
Coopman got the call on Del Norte's second touchdown, a five-yard run at the end of a 15-play, 60-yard scoring drive over seven minutes of game time. On the extra point, Dylan Pease took the snap in the swinging gate formation and dived into the end zone for two points, upping the lead to 15-0.
McKinleyville went three-and-out on the ensuing offensive possession, and the Warriors began another drive with the clock winding down toward halftime. Pease pitched to Carpenter on a designed sweep run, but Carpenter did not catch the ball. Panthers wide receiver/defensive back Travis Nickols did, taking the fumble back 35 yards for a score.
McKinleyville received the ball at halftime, and Panthers quarterback Laine Grace connected with Nickols for a 66-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the half from scrimmage. The play accounted for over two-thirds of McKinleyville's passing yards in the game.
A two-point pass attempt failed, but with Del Norte's lead cut to 15-13, the Warriors were firmly on their heels. So Del Norte offensive coordinator Gene Mitchell and head coach Ray Rook went back to what got the Warriors their lead.
The running backs.
Del Norte followed up Grace's touchdown pass with a nine-play, 57-yard drive, entirely on the ground, that ended in another five-yard touchdown run by Coopman.
The rout was on by the fourth quarter. Carpenter scored the first touchdown of the period, rushing in from three yards out. He then took a Dylan Pease pass 47 yards, setting up Bell for a two-yard touchdown run. Bell tacked on the exclamation point late, a 10-yard touchdown run on the Warriors' first play after a 37-yard punt return by Steven Maready.
Carpenter and Bell produced 137 yards of total offense apiece against the Panthers.
McKinleyville lost three fumbles during the game and committed 12 penalties for 85 yards, including three enforced personalfoul penalties.
Del Norte travels to Shasta High of Redding on Sept. 13 for a nonleague contest.
Del Norte JV 16, McKinleyville JV 6
Austin Healy returned the junior varsity game's opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown as the Warriors improved to 2-0 overall against the Panthers.
Chee Shorty added a six-yard touchdown run for Del Norte.
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com .