The Del Norte football continued its early season dominance in 2018 with an impressive 44-0 road win against Yreka. With the win the Warriors improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2011, when the team started the season 4-0.
Del Norte dominated the game from the opening kickoff, and the game was never all that close. The Warriors held Yreka scoreless while forcing two turnovers and another turnover on downs in the first half alone. Meanwhile the Warrior offense scored touchdowns on five of their six first half possessions for a 34-0 halftime lead.
“We were consistent,” said Del Norte head coach Lewis Nova. “We were moving the ball well.”
The Del Norte offense would not be denied at the beginning of the game. The Warriors scored on both of their possessions in the first quarter with drives of 85 and 90 yards. Del Norte was especially efficient on early downs and didn’t face a third down until penalties forced the issue near the end of the second quarter in its fifth possession of the game.
“We are putting drives together and we are finishing them,” Nova said. “That is helping us to get out to big halftime leads.”
Defensively, Yreka was able to break off a few big plays in the first half, but Del Norte always seemed to be able to buckle down and force a Miners turnover to prevent Yreka from scoring.
The Miners got the ball first to start the game and looked poised to take an early lead with a big 54-yard pass on third down, but Del Norte defensive backs Giovanni Gonzalez and Sebastian Puente managed to run down the Yreka receiver from behind and strip the ball. Puente then grabbed the fumble in the end zone and returned it out to the 15 yard line.
“We shot ourselves in the foot again,” Nova said. “We put ourselves in a defensive situation, but our defense came up big, and we got the ball back with a great play on a fumble.”
Offensively Del Norte aired the ball out early, throwing it four times in the team’s first five plays with catches for 32, 11 and 18 yards before Puente punched the ball into the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run, capping a seven-play, 85-yard drive for a 6-0 lead.
After a three-and-out possession by Yreka, the Del Norte offense got back on the field with the ball on its own 10 yard line. Ethan Price gave the Warriors a 13-0 lead 10 plays and 90 yards later on a six-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
Yreka broke its biggest run of the game, a 32-yarder, to get into Warrior territory, but Del Norte stepped up defensively once again. The Warriors held Yreka on the next three plays. The Miners went for it on fourth-and-four, but Anthony Slayton came up with a big stop on a Yreka run for a turnover on downs.
Two plays later Puente broke a 36-yard touchdown run for a 19-0 lead.
Kobe Mitchell intercepted a Yreka pass in the Miners’ next possession and returned it about 27 yards down to the Miners’ 3 yard line. Mitchell then took a handoff up the middle to punch it in for a 27-0 lead with 9 minutes left in the half.
Del Norte’s offense finally struggled in its fifth possession of the game. The Warriors were hammered with penalties, picking up five flags in the play and fumbling a snap before ultimately going three and out.
“We broke some plays in that drive, and then our kids were down field blocking,” Nova said. “They got excited about helping their teammates downfield, and they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar a couple times. In some ways you can’t fault that, but down the road as we get better in each game we can’t give up yards like that.”
The Warriors were back on track before halftime, however, wrapping up the half with a six-play, 70-yard drive capped by an 11-yard TD run by Puente with 27 seconds left. Del Norte held a 34-0 advantage at halftime.
The Warriors continued their onslaught in the second half. Del Norte got the ball first and drove the ball 47 yards, taking almost 5:30 off the game clock. The drive ended with a 25-yard field goal by Kenji Adams-Lee, his first attempt other than a point-after try this season. The field goal gave the Warriors a 37-0 lead and kicked off the continuous clock rules for the remainder of the game.
“We put a field goal up on the board with is a great confidence booster for our kicker,” Nova said. “Plus later on down the road you may have to have them.”
Justin Goudelock scored his first varsity touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run.
Del Norte finished the game with 302 yards rushing, lead by Puente’s 117 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half. Puente has averaged more than 10 yards per carry in every game so far this season. Del Norte quarterbacks OJ Calleja and Ethan Price combined to complete 8-of-14 passes for 128 yards to eclipse the 100-yard passing mark for the first time this season.
Yreka was held to just 40 yards rushing on 20 carries — including one run for 32 yards. The Miners were also 1-for-4 through the air for 27 yards.
Del Norte will be back at home next Friday, hosting Brookings-Harbor for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.