Football

Improved defense paves the way for Fortuna’s big playoff push

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Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com

By Ray Hamill — It’s no coincidence that the Fortuna Huskies have won three straight playoff games at the same time they’re playing their best defense of the season.

Similar to last year, when the Huskies went on to lift a 5-A state championship, the 2018 team’s defense has been a key component of the playoff run.

And they’ll need more of the same if they are to knock off top seed Moreau Catholic in Saturday night’s North Coast Section Division-IV championship game at Dublin HS.

The Huskies (8-5) are the defending NCS champs and riding a nine-game playoff winning streak, while the Mariners come into the game unbeaten on the year at 12-0.

But this Huskies team won’t fear anyone after knocking off a pair of higher seeds on the road the past two weekends.

And they laid the foundations for those wins with some much-improved defense.

Rematch from last year

Through the final five games of the regular season, Fortuna gave up an average of 43.8 points a game. Through their three playoff games, they have allowed just 12.6 a game.

“Now that we have everyone back, everyone healthy, and everyone knows the plan, I think that makes a huge difference,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. 

Last season, the Huskies’ defense was outstanding on their playoff run, particularly through their four NCS games.

They allowed 33 points to St. Bernard’s in the semifinal, but held their other three opponents to just six points combined, including a pair of shutouts.

In the NCS decider, the Huskies shut out Hercules 44-0, and along the way they beat Moreau Catholic 60-6.

Don’t expect a repeat of that score this time around, however, with the Mariners much improved.

Their defense has been equally impressive at times this season, posting five straight shutouts to close out the regular season.

In the playoffs, however, they have allowed 75 points combined in two games to St. Patrick-St. Vincent and San Marin.

A dynamic Fortuna offense will be hoping to take advantage of that.

Saturday’s showdown will be broadcast live on 95.1 and 106.7 FM., with kickoff set for 7 p.m. and the pre-game showing getting under way at 6:40 p.m.

For a more in-depth preview of the big game, log onto Humboldt Sports on Friday evening.

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