By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna boys soccer team overcame a spirited McKinleyville defensive performance on Wednesday, pulling away in the second half for a 4-0 win at Mack High.
The victory keeps the Huskies undefeated in the Humboldt-Del Norte League at 3-0, and was their fifth over local opposition in five games this season.
It also was a nice way to bounce back from their first loss of the year at Head-Royce in Oakland over the weekend.
“It wasn’t our best match,” Fortuna head coach Daniel Holmes said. “It’s homecoming this week, and that takes a lot out of them, and the road trip takes a lot out of them, and McKinleyville played with a lot of heart. But I’ll take a 4-0 win.”
The defending league champions have dominated their local opponents this season, outscoring them 22-1 in five contests.
In particular sophomore Fernando Atilano kept the home players on their toes all day and was instrumental in almost every worthwhile Fortuna move.
The younger of the two Atilano brothers broke the deadlock just five minutes in, and it was nothing less than the Huskies deserved after a period of early pressure.
Atilano slipped through the defense and made no mistake with a well-placed shot low and past the oncoming keeper.
The goal, however, seemed to settle the home team down and the Panthers enjoyed a spell of good possession immediately following it, with Richie Carpenter particularly dangerous in attack.
The Huskies added three goals after the break to pull away, the first an own goal headed into the back of the net on a misplaced clearance, and the next two from senior Jessie Herrera.
The industrious Herrera had a great second half, and his hard work paid off with a pair of goals within a few minutes of each other, including one on a beautiful shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Defensively, the Panthers looked solid most of the time, with a few mental breakdowns costing them against a dangerous Fortuna attack.
Alex Macy and Jair Gonzalez were strong in the center, while on the outside Isaac Ward and Nathan Witten were tidy in possession and kept the potent Huskies in check much of the game.
In particular, Witten shut down numerous attacks.
“We played really well at certain times and showed we can play better than the best team,” said Mack coach Ryne Deppe. “The goals that happened were either a lack of communication or a lack of focus, but other than that we competed.”
For the Huskies, who improved to 8-1-1 overall, there was a mixture of good and bad in the performance despite the scoreline.
“I don’t think we linked a consistent five passes in a row,” Holmes said, adding with a smile, “they’ll fix that, or they’ll run.”
The back line performed well, shutting down the Panthers offense and holding them without many clean opportunities.
In particular, senior Jackson Fairbanks is having an impressive season, alongside Kevin Noel, Jack Honsal and Angel Ornelas.
Jackson Sandell and Narayan Weibel each also had some promising moves for Mack, while the older Atilano brother, Luis, had a good game for the Huskies.
Fortuna hosts South Fork on Saturday, while McKinleyville has a bye.