The Del Norte soccer team was evenly matched in McKinleyville but the Warriors were able to make a few big plays when they needed them, toping the Panthers 2-0 for the team’s first win of the season and improving to 1-1 overall.

“The teams were on par for long stretches,” said Del Norte head coach David Sanyaolu. “McKinleyville played well against us, but we were able to convert the chances that we had and we defended well.”

Junior Ramsey Gonzalez broke the scoreless tie in the 20th minute for Del Norte’s first goal of the season. Junior Aaron Mignon started off the sequence with a shot on goal that the McKinleyville keeper was able to block but not control. Gonzalez was the first player to get to the rebound and converted on the opportunity.

The Panthers had a golden opportunity to tie the game early in the second half when Del Norte was whistled for a foul inside the penalty box — awarding McKinleyville a penalty kick.

“Our ever-reliable goal keeper, Jorge (Landeros), saved it,” Sanyaolu said. “I think that was a turning point of the game. After that we started pressing for an insurance goal and we got it.”

That insurance goal came in the 70th minute. Mignon picked up his second assist of the game with a cross pass to Elvin Ramirez and the freshman was able to bury it in the back of the net for his first high school goal.

“I am very proud of them,” Sanyaolu said. “After the Arcata game we had a heart to heart talk about our performance. Results apart, our performance was just not acceptable and we all agreed that we are going to correct what we did wrong, go to McKinleyville, play well and hopefully get a win. We did that today.”

The biggest difference for the Warriors in their second game of the season was the team’s ability to move the ball around effectively.

“We passed the ball much better than we did against Arcata,” Sanyaolu said. “McKinleyville is on the same level as us, so we were playing against a team with the same skill level and we won.”

The trouble against Arcata wasn’t so much that players tried to hang onto the ball for too long, though that was part of it. Rather, when the Warriors did get rid of the ball it always seemed to land at the feet of a Tiger player.

“I just want the boys to play the game well — to play with some creativity,” Sanyaolu said. “We tend to just leave everything to chance. Traditionally they just kick the ball up field, and the boys even joke that that is Del Norte soccer. But that is not how I want the boys to play. I want to see them plan and create.”

Against McKinleyville, Sanyaolu’s vision for the Warriors finally started to come into focus. The Warriors head coach said he hopes to see more of the same on Wednesday when the Del Norte boys and girls team will host Ferndale.

“We are going to be at home, so hopefully we can build on this win,” Sanyaolu said. “There is just something uplifting and morale boosting about wins — you just want to get more.”

Boys games are being played first this year, kicking off at 3:30 p.m. The Del Norte girls will take on Ferndale after the boys game.

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