The Del Norte football team jumped out to an early lead and never trailed in its season opening game at Mike Whalen Field on Friday. The Warriors kept Ferndale at arm’s length throughout the first half, then pulled away after halftime for a resounding 40-0 victory over the Wildcats.

“It was a battle. We battled back and forth early on,” said Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova. “We had to calm our kids down early on because we kept making mistakes and they kept pounding the ball at us and they were fundamentally sound. They were a good team, but we wore them down and we quit making mistakes. This was our first real contact against another team. We shook the cobwebs off and performed in the second half.”

Most of Del Norte’s mistakes in the first half came in the form of penalties. The Warrior offense was hit with several penalties that killed some of the team’s early momentum, while both of Ferndale’s first downs in the game came after a Del Norte defensive penalty.

“We aren’t powerful enough and good enough yet that we can give up yards and give up scores,” Nova said. “So we need to make sure that we are solid across the board.” Other than a few flags the Warrior defense was dominant all night long. At the end of the game, Del Norte held Ferndale to minus 10 yards on 25 rushes and just 10 yards passing (1-for-13) for a total of zero yards.

Meanwhile Del Norte racked up 270 yards rushing and another 81 yards through the air.

Ferndale got the ball to start the game, but the Warrior defense forced a quick three-and-out to force a punt. Senior Ethan Price had a big return on the play, setting up the Del Norte offense at the Wildcats’ 20 yard line.

Although Price has been the starting quarterback for the past two years and played the majority of the competitive snaps behind center, it was actually junior OJ Calleja that made the start at quarterback for Del Norte. With Calleja at QB, Price moved to receiver and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass on the Warriors’ second play for a 7-0 lead just 2:15 into the game.

Calleja ended up playing a couple series at quarterback in the first half. He also started the first series of the second half, driving Del Norte 50 yards capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Price.

Although Nova said Price is definitely the team’s starter, his height and athleticism, coupled with Calleja’s solid play at the quarterback position, allows the Del Norte offense to get a little creative.

“We don’t want to be one-dimensional. Ethan is a very good athlete, and we can use him in multiple situations because OJ is a good quarterback,” Nova said. “He also showed that he can run the ball today too. He solidifies the depth in that position. Then when you put Ethan out (at receiver), at 6-foot-something, we have a big advantage on the corners.”

Price was the leading rusher with 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, the leading receiver with two catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns, while also going 2-for-2 through the air for 32 more yards.

Although Del Norte ended up with a lopsided win, the score stayed close for most of the first half. Del Norte added to its lead early in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Sebastian Puente for a 13-0 lead, but the Warriors were stopped on their next two possessions.

Just before halftime, Price completed a 60-yard drive in less than 1:40 seconds with a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle. Price was met by a few Wildcat defenders at about the 5-yard line, but Price and the rest of the Warrior offensive line pushed the pile all the way into the end zone.

“You always want to capture that momentum going into halftime,” Nova said. “That gave us momentum for the second half.”

After halftime, Del Norte scored touchdowns on its first three possessions before running out the final five minutes of the game with its fourth possession of the half. Every available player on the Warriors’ roster got into the game for at least a few snaps against Ferndale.

“I was very happy with how we played as we rotated guys in,” Nova said. “They were playing hard and getting better and better as the game went. It was great to get everyone into the game because in situations like this they need to get playing time and we need to be able to evaluate them. It makes it a lot easier when you are running those 50-yard sprints if you will get playing time on Friday.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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