The Del Norte football team found itself in a familiar position on Friday night with an early lead that steadily built into a comfortable win as the Warriors protected Mike Whalen Field with a 28-7 victory over Mazama to improve to 5-0 overall this year.
“It was a fantastic game,” said Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova. “Coach (Marc) Slayton said it: ‘All three phases of our game were great.’ We came and we played hard, we eliminated the mistakes we have been making for the most part, and we played for all four quarters. You can’t ask any more out of your kids than that.”
Although Del Norte came into the game with a 4-0 record, Mazama was expected to provide one of the Warriors’ toughest games of the non-league season. Del Norte proved that it was more than up to the task, however, taking an 8-0 lead just 1:07 into the game and never trailing against the Vikings.
“We have been playing teams that we should have beaten and we won. Now we went up against a team that has a great reputation of winning, we were 0-2 against them in the last two years, and the kids stood toe to toe with them and played a great game,” Nova said.“I felt good about being 4-0 because the kids were playing. This win just solidifies their confidence in themselves. They are getting better and you can see it.”
The Warriors got the ball to start the game and quickly found themselves deep in Mazama territory after a 52-yard pass from OJ Calleja to Ethan Price during the second play from scrimmage to set Del Norte up with first and goal on the 3 yard line.
“You want to get your opponent on their heels, and that is what that did,” Nova said. “It put us in great position to score, and it showed them that OJ is a capable quarterback. He put the ball in play to Ethan, and then Ethan finished the play off. It was a great momentum starter for us.”
Running back Sebastian Puente went up the middle on the next play to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead, which became 8-0 on a two-point conversion quarterback sneak by Price.
After the big pass early, the Warriors’ offense started to focus on the run, and Puente found a lot of room to maneuver, especially up the middle.
“What was working in the running game was two tackles, two guards, a tight end and a center,” Nova said. “They are the guys that get overlooked at times, but this was a game where they really set the tone.”
Puente featured heavily in a nine-play 83-yard drive to end the first quarter and start the second, and the senior capped off the possession with his second touchdown run, this one from 4 yards out.
Mazama was able to cut into that lead with a three-play 66-yard drive highlighted by a 51-yard pass over the middle to set up a 6-yard touchdown run to pull within 15-7 before halftime.
Del Norte got the ball back with 3:25 remaining in the half and marched all the way down to the Vikings’ 1 yard line, but Mazama kept the Warriors from scoring with a pair of run stuffs just before halftime.
In the second half the Del Norte defense continued its strong play by forcing turnovers on each of the Vikings’ first two possessions of the half.
Nick Voight recovered a fumbled handoff on the third play off the half for Del Norte. On Mazama’s next possession Kobe Mitchell scooped up a Viking fumble at the Mazama 25 yard line and returned it down to the 10 before being tackled.
Chase Blackburn pushed Del Norte back ahead by 15 about 40 seconds later with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Early in the fourth quarter, Mitchell put the game out of Mazama’s reach with a 4-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead with 10:42 remaining in the game.
Puente led Del Norte with 156 of the Warriors’ 247 rushing yards in the game. Del Norte outgained the Vikings with 354 yards to just 212 yards overall for Mazama.