HumboldtSports.com — The McKinleyville Panthers dropped their season opener 18-0 at St. Vincent de Paul on Saturday afternoon, but head coach Keoki Burbank had plenty to be encouraged about nonetheless.
Defensively, the Panthers looked solid, holding the visitors scoreless for the opening three quarters and coming up with several big plays.
Offensively, however, Burbank admits his team still has a lot of work to do.
“There were some first game issues for sure,” Burbank said. “Just mental mistakes, fumbles, penalties, things we’ve got to work on. But I thought defensively we played really well. I felt like it’s a game we could have won.”
In other local football action on Saturday, St. Bernard’s defeated El Molino 40-14 in Eureka, and the Arcata Tigers fell 26-20 at St. Helena.
The Crusaders dominated at the line of scrimmage on the way to opening up a five-touchdown lead by halftime and were never in danger of losing.
Senior Connor Chase, who was a member of the Crusaders’ state championship team as a freshman four years ago, got his senior campaign off to an impressive start.
Fo more details on the St. Bernard’s win, check out Crusaders dominate El Molino in opener.
For the Panthers, meanwhile, Nate Ballew and Kyler Carr each had a fumble recovery, while teammate Caleb Martinez had an interception as the team defense came up with several big plays.
Offensively, Martinez also had a 60-yard TD catch called back for an illegal man downfield penalty.
The game was tied at 0-0 at the time.
Senior Rylin Grow got the start at quarterback for the Panthers, but gave way to junior Jack Patton in the second quarter.
Neither QB was able to really ignite the offense, although Patton, who played for the JVs the past two years and has more starting experience at the position, showed some positive signs.
Defensively, tackle Tom Locatelli had a huge game, causing the home team persistent problems throughout.
“Locatelli had four or five tackles for a loss,” Burbank said. “He had a really great game.”
Burbank is also hoping to welcome a couple of injured players back to his roster this week for added options when they travel to St. Bernard’s next Saturday.
“We have some things to build on,” the coach said. “I definitely would rather be 1-0, but we’ve got to take the positives.”
Arcata 20, St. Helena 26
The Tigers’ inexperience was evident on Saturday when they dropped their season opener at St. Helena.
Head coach Jamal Jones, however, says this will be a good learning experience for his young players.
“These are young guys who have never been in this position before,” the coach said. “But I believe there’s a lot we can take from this game. I really think this will prepare us for the next nine games.”
Early season rustiness plagued the Tigers all night long.
“It was a weird football game,” Jones said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot. Every time we moved the ball, it was a bad snap, It just kept happening all night long.”
One definite bright spot for the Tigers was the play of junior running back Kien Mazzotti.
“He easily had over 100 yards, probably closer to 150,” Jones said of Mazzotti. “He had a hell of a game.”
The Tigers featured seven new starters on defense, and the coach believes all of them will grow into the position.
“When they’ve acclimated, they’ll be fine,” he said.
Arcata returns home to host Del Norte on Friday.