By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies scored touchdowns on each of their first six possessions on Friday night, dominating El Molino in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs at Husky Field.
Fortuna led 49-7 at halftime with big contributions from throughout the lineup, eventually winning 55-7 after resting most of the starters for the second half.
“We were very pleased with how our boys performed,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. “I thought we came out pretty hungry.”
The win for the No. 6 seed Huskies (6-5) sets up a quarterfinal matchup at No. 3 Kennedy High (8-2) in Richmond next Saturday, and gives the defending section champs some momentum going forward after having lost three straight to close out the regular season.
Just as importantly, a Huskies team that has been beat-up lately came through this one unscathed, with a couple of key starters returning from injuries.
Payne sets the tone early
El Molino came into the playoffs having managed just two wins on the field of play this year, and the Lions were outmatched on both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff.
Fortuna’s Iziaah Payne set the tone on the very first snap with a sack for a 12-yard loss, and the visitors managed a net gain on just one of their opening eight plays.
Offensively, there was no stopping the home team, who came out on fire and did indeed appear “hungry.”
The ever-consistent Joey Pontes had another big game for the Huskies, rushing for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Bryce Sancho had four receptions for 55 yards, two of them going for touchdowns.
Sancho opened the scoring three minutes in on a nine-yard TD reception, set up by a 51-yard gain by Pontes.
Pontes then capped a seven-play drive with a one-yard scoring run on Fortuna’s next possession.
The Huskies got contributions from several players as offensive coordinator Clint Duey did a good job spreading the ball around and keeping the visitors guessing.
Daeden Taylor added a 48-yard touchdown reception on the Huskies’ following drive, before Travis Lourenzo scored on a six-yard run early in the second quarter to make it four different players scoring the first four TDs.
“I think we had a great team effort and a great team win,” Benbow said.
Pontes scored his second touchdown of the night and his 13th of the season midway through the second quarter, before Jordan Bennett scored for the second straight week, this time on a two-yard run.
Sancho closed out the first-half scoring on a TD reception from sophomore JV quarterback Max Hough just before halftime, as Benbow used the opportunity to give his younger players some valuable playoff experience.
“That was pretty awesome we were able to do that,” the head coach said.
Big night for Atilano
Senior kicker Luis Atilano, who has been lighting up the local soccer fields all year, had a huge night in the win.
Atilano nailed all seven PATs, as well as a pair of second-half field goals.
Atilano will be hoping to make it two NCS playoffs wins for two different teams on two straight days, when he plays for the Fortuna soccer team on Saturday night.
Quarterback Zac Claus also had a good night, throwing for 167 yards and two TDs, as the Huskies racked up 469 of their 530 yards in the first half alone.
Taylor led the receivers with 80 yards on three catches, while Lourenzo finished with 60 yards rushing and Bennett 52.
All of that was made possible by a dominating game in the trenches for the home team.
Adam Medeiros also ran hard and found some space in the opening half, finishing with 53 yards on three carries.