A little luck early and a dominating first half left Del Norte with a 2-0 halftime lead, but a furious push by McKinleyville had the Warriors on edge for much of the second half. Del Norte managed to regain its footing, however, and added a pair of late goals to pull away for a 4-1 win at home over the Panthers.

“Our passing and movement really stood out,” said Del Norte head coach David Sanyaolu. “Our offensive play is my main objective for the year — not sitting back and being pressured. We are not going to play flat footed, so we played three defenders and just populated the midfield with two defensive midfielders, one offensive, and then we had men on the wings so we had width.”

The more aggressive strategy paid off early for Del Norte as the Warriors took the opening kickoff straight down the field for a lightning-fast 1-0 lead in the first minute.

Del Norte’s Santiago Montanez dribbled the ball deep into the right side of the Panthers’ box and dropped the ball back to Jose Regalado. Regalado lined up a hard shot but got to the ball at almost the exact same time as a McKinleyville defender. Regalado managed to get a little bit more of the ball, however. The ball shot high into the air but drifted toward goal and ended up coming down at a steep angle just above the keeper’s outstretched hand and under the crossbar for a 1-0 Warrior lead.

“Right off the bat we were all over them,” Sanyaolu said. “We were lucky with the first goal, but you make your own luck. If you are on your opponent’s half something is bound to happen. That kind of settled us because we knew we were in the lead, and we were able to pass the ball impressively. That is my vision for soccer here.”

After the first goal, Del Norte continued to control the

game and pressure the McKinleyville defense throughout the first half.

The Panthers managed to keep the Warriors from scoring, however, until just before halftime.

In the 35th minute, Del Norte foreign exchange student Daniel Bertelson, of Denmark, won a 50-50 ball in the middle of the field, avoided a pair of McKinleyville defenders and fired a shot from about 10 yards out that barreled into the left side of the goal for a 2-0 lead for the Warriors.

“We are lucky to have Daniel from Denmark,” Sanyaolu said, using the nickname the team has adopted for Bertelsen. “He has soccer smarts, and he takes good shots on goal. I’m just happy for him that he got his first goal. It was a very good goal — well taken and composed.”

Trailing 2-0 at the break, McKinleyville came out strongly in the second half. The Panthers took advantage of a mistake by the Warrior defense in the 48th minute to cut the Warriors’ lead in half with 32 minutes left to play.

“We lost possession there, and there was a scramble, and the McKinleyville player got it and just shot on goal,” Sanyaolu said. “Ro-tah maybe thought the ball was heading out, but as a goalkeeper safety should be your objective. It was kind of a fluke goal, but considering that we also got a fluke goal maybe they canceled out. It was what happened afterwards that was shocking.”

Following the goal, the Panthers quickly took control of play, with several high quality chances to score. McKinleyville’s best chance for an equalizer came in the 55th minute when a shot hit the crossbar hard and bounced straight down. The side judge ruled that the ball did not cross the line entirely before bouncing back into the field, where Shorty regained control to retain the 2-1 lead.

“The game just turned on its head because we were panicking,” Sanyaolu said. “They were using long balls on us because we were playing with three defenders. They just started to swarm us, and we started just kicking the ball — we couldn’t play our game. I’m glad that we corrected it though.”

After about 15 minutes of heavy pressure from the Panthers’ offense, Del Norte finally started to regain its early form. Midfielder Scott Peters sent a quick one-touch pass into the middle of the Panthers’ penalty box, where Chase Gardner controled the ball and got off a quick shot into the left side of the net to push Del Norte back in front by two goals.

Just four minutes later Peters put the game away with a breakaway opportunity off of a long pass from Johan Ramirez. Peters then beat the McKinleyville keeper one-on-one for a 4-1 advantage with just 13 minutes remaining.

Although McKinleyville’s second half push made the Warriors nervous, Sanyaolu said it may be a good thing for his team moving forward.

“That is what makes you stronger,” Sanyaolu said. “We had a stroll in the first half, so maybe we got complacent or something. You need to go through that sometimes to wake you up and remind you to be present. I’m glad that that happened, and we will talk about that in practice on Monday.”

The win is the first of the season, though the Warriors are still undefeated at 1-0-1 overall. Del Norte is scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday playing its first road game of the season in Ferndale. The Warriors will kick off against the Wildcats at about 5:30 p.m. following the conclusion of the girls game.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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