By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies and Del Norte Warriors will meet for the second time in three weeks on Friday, when they open the Big 4 with an intriguing matchup to say the least.
The Huskies rolled over the Warriors in a non-league showdown at Fortuna on Sept. 21, crushing the visitors 62-32.
But neither team is expecting a repeat of that result when they meet this time around in Crescent City.
The Huskies come into the season at 5-2, with their only losses coming against Cardinal Newman and Tracy, two top programs.
Del Norte (6-1), meanwhile, cruised to a 5-0 start before falling hard at Fortuna, and head coach Lewis Nova will be hoping for a much improved performance this time around.
“It’s league, and we’ve got Fortuna, and they beat us up the first time, so we’ve got to be ready,” Nova said. “We’re going to have to play our best game of the year.”
The Huskies feature a deep lineup with a large group of potential game-changers on both sides of the ball.
But it was their play along the line that really separated these two teams the last time, and both head coaches expect that’s where the game will be decided once again.
“They’re very well-coached and they’re going to be ready to play, and we’re going to have to match their physicality,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. “The game’s going to be won or lost in the trenches.”
Nova echoed the sentiment.
“We’ve got to come out and hit, and we’ve got to come out and battle them on the line of scrimmage,” he said. “And we’ve got to find a running game and be consistent. We can’t go three-and-out.”
That running game will rely heavily on running back Sebastian Puente and the athletic Ethan Price, who lines up all over the field.
Nova and his staff, however, will have to be creative to find a way past a physical Fortuna line, anchored by standout senior Sheaden Kadle.
“They’re confident,” Nova said of the Huskies. “They’re the returning state champions and they have a lot of people back. They’re well-coached, and they’re in the groove.”
Benbow and the Huskies, meanwhile, are expecting a battle every week in this year’s Big 4.
“It is very competitive, and we’ll know a lot more after this weekend to see where people line up,” the long-time head coach said. “I think it’s exciting.”
In other Big 4 action this weekend, St. Bernard’s travels across town to play Eureka at Albee Stadium on Saturday night.