The Del Norte boys soccer team’s undefeated run to start the season was finally ended on Wednesday, in the 11th game of the season, on senior night against Fortuna. Although the game was even for long stretches of play, the two-time defending league champion Huskies grabbed the inside track to repeat as champions with a goal late in the first half and another early in the second half to escape Crescent City with a 2-1 win over the Warriors.
“We gave it our best, and I am proud of my boys,” Del Norte head coach David Sanyaolu said. “We knew that we were playing against the best team in our league, and maybe our division. We could have passed the ball better I thought. I think we went into safety mode and just kicked the ball at times. But in the second half we kind of settled in, started to make passes and even launched some attacks.”
The Warriors defended tough throughout the game, but Sanyaolu said the Huskies showed why they have been the best team in the HDN for the past two years and one of the best in the North Coast Section.
“They have good first touch — that is soccer,” Sanyaolu said. “They have a good first touch and they create something with it. Their passes were crisp and accurate and they launch attacks quickly, but everything starts with the first touch. When they get the ball it stays; it is not bouncing off them and they are not just kicking it up the field.”
The Huskies managed to take a 1-0 lead a few minutes before halftime when a Fortuna forward gained space in the box after the Warrior defender fell down and managed to fire a shot into the net. The official ruled that there was no penalty on the play.
“The first goal was kind of dubious because I thought there was a nudge on Bryce (Harper) that caused him to fall down,” Sanyaolu said.
Fortuna doubled their lead early in the second half with a long direct free kick from about 45 yards out in the 46th minute that sailed over a jumping Del Norte goalkeeper and into the upper 90.
After falling behind 2-0 play evened out for most of the second half, although Fortuna was still able to produce a few more scoring opportunities than the Warriors.
“I thought play was more balanced in the second half. We were creating opportunities. We were just not as fast or as accurate as I would have wanted,” Sanyaolu said. “We couldn’t get our crosses in, and most of our goals have come from crosses. We just never really got it going on the wings.”
Del Norte finally broke up Fortuna’s clean sheet in the 79th minute, when the Warriors were fouled in the 18-yard box to set up a penalty kick with about 30 seconds left in the match.
Del Norte’s Daniel Bertelsen hammered the PK towards the right post and into the goal to cut the Huskies’ lead in half, but there wasn’t enough time left in the game to try to push for a tie.
“I am glad that we got that goal,” Sanyaolu said. “It is a confidence booster for us, that we can actually contend with them.”
With the win, Fortuna all but wraps up a third-straight Humboldt-Del Norte League championship while improving to 11-0 in league play. The loss is the first of the season for Del Norte, which falls to 8-1-2 in the HDN this season, but remains securely in second place in the league.
“This is a good match for my boys to go through because we have been fairly comfortable in most all of our matches so far,” Sanyaolu said. “So it is nice to go through this kind of test. I am glad that we have the film of this game because I am going to show the boys that they had really good first touch and good passes. That is what I want for us.”
Del Norte will be back in action in Miranda taking on South Fork at about 1 p.m. following the conclusion of the girls’ game. The Warriors beat the Cubs 3-0 when the teams met in Crescent City.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .