By Ray Hamill — Cardinal Newman lived up to its billing as one of the top teams in the North Coast Section on Friday night, comfortably defeating Fortuna 35-6 in the season opener at Husky Field.
The Cardinals scored touchdowns on five of their opening seven possessions, moving the ball quickly and effectively with quarterback Jackson Pavitt and receiver Jake Woods an unstoppable combination.
The 6-foot-5 senior receiver caught two of his three touchdowns in the opening half as the visitors opened up a 28-point lead before the interval.
And when Pavitt wasn’t finding Woods, another big senior receiver — 6-1 Chauncy Leberthon — was just as dangerous on the opposite side.
“We played hard and the kids never gave up against a really, really good Cardinal Newman team,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. “We’ll get better.”
The Huskies also lost to the Cardinals in their opener a year ago, before going on a 14-1 run that ended with a state championship.
But any hopes of revenge this time around were quickly dashed as the visiting Cardinals took control of the game early and never relented.
“I thought coming in they were the best team in Division III (in the NCS),” Benbow said of the Santa Rosa school. “Both their receivers were really good, and they made plays.”
The Huskies did have their moments, including a pair of interceptions on the Cardinals’ opening possession of either half, as well as a couple of long sustained drives in the opening half.
Ultimately, however, while the Huskies were able to move the ball at times, the Cardinals’ defense always tightened when it needed to, coming away with possession on downs three times in the opening two quarters alone.
Fortuna’s Joey Pontes had a huge interception on the opening play from scrimmage in the first quarter, reading Pavitt’s throw to perfection and giving the home team an early opportunity in Cardinal territory.
A quick four-and-out, however, ended the opportunity.
Adam Medeiros also had an interception for Fortuna on the Cardinals’ opening possession of the second half.
“I thought we had some opportunities that we kind of left out there,” Benbow said. “But I was proud of the effort.”
The Huskies scored their only touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Zac Claus found Levi Nyberg open down the sideline and the sophomore receiver took it 76 yards.
The score capped a 96-yard, six-play drive.
The Huskies will travel to play Galt next weekend.