The Del Norte football team got off to a promising start in its season finale in Fortuna on Friday, but the Huskies’ rushing attack proved to be too much for the Warriors to handle, as Fortuna pulled away throughout the first half for a 41-13 victory.
“They were banging on all cylinders early,” said Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova. “They took it too us early and put the points on the board that they needed. We tried to rebound and establish some things, but Fortuna always bounced back. They were just better than us tonight.”
The Warriors got off to a great start as they took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, aided by a 41-yard run by senior running back Aaron Young. Quarterback Ethan Price found Young with a pass a few plays later and Young dodged three Husky defenders for a 10-yard touchdown catch and a 7-0 Warrior lead.
Although Del Norte took an early lead, the rest of the half was all Fortuna.
The Huskies ran roughshod over the Warriors in each of their first four possessions of the game to take control. Fortuna tied the game up with a 42-yard run on its first possession.
The Huskies took a 14-7 lead on an 11-yard run after a 43-yard pass with their second possession; and added a 5-yard touchdown run following a 44-yard run to start the drive the third time Fortuna got the football.
The Huskies fourth drive started with another 43-yard run, and ended with a 33-yard pass three plays later for a quick 27-7 lead with 9:28 left in the first half.
The Del Norte defense was finally able to pick up a stop in the last five minutes of the first half, thanks in part to a pair of Fortuna penalties. But the Huskies struck once again with less than two minutes left in the half when a pass on third and 10 went for a 75-yard touchdown.
Del Norte got the ball back with just 1:40 left in the half, but Price hit senior Mason Mitchell for a 14-yard pass on the first play, and found Mitchell again for a 37-yard touchdown on the second play of the drive to cut Fortuna’s lead to 34-13 with less than a minute to go in the first half.
The Huskies added another touchdown midway through the third quarter in a comparatively uneventful second half as both teams brought in their backups for the final few drives of the game.
Young led the Del Norte offense with 15 rushes for 104 yards. Young ended his football career with five straight games with at least 90 yards rushing.
“He has been one of our staples all season,” Nova said. “Offensively, when push comes to shove we look in his direction and he is going to give us everything that he’s got. He has been a great senior leader for us.”
Fortuna racked up a total of 485 yards on offense, including 306 yards on 42 rushing attempts.
The loss drops Del Norte to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 this season and out of contention for the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs. It has been a strange season for the Warriors with last-minute venue changes and cancellations due to various wildfires this fall, along with a pair of forfeits, and a lost practice due to a bomb threat at the high school.
Although Del Norte struggled to pull out wins this season, Nova said his Warriors never lacked for effort.
“I’m going to remember this team’s heart,” Nova said. “A lot of things happened this season and they never gave up. We were down by a few touchdowns today but we still kept coming. We got banged up and the team just kept coming. We have a great group of seniors and just a fantastic group of young men.”
Although the Warriors missed the NCS playoffs for the first time in four years this season, Nova said the experienced gained by a large group of returning players could make Del Norte’s absence from the playoffs short-lived.
“We obviously had a number of young kids up (on varsity) this year, and a pretty good group of JV kids,” Nova said. “We will see how things work out in the offseason. Its is going to depend on how they do in the weight room, workouts and building off the team camaraderie that we established this year. They need to pay their dues in the offseason.”