In head coach Mike Benbow’s eyes, they are the G.O.A.T.s of Fortuna football, and whether you agree with him or not, there’s no arguing the fact they will go down in Huskies history having achieved something no other group can claim.
On Saturday night, the Huskies closed out another memorable playoff campaign with a comprehensive 61-35 win over No. 1 seed Moreau Catholic in the North Coast Section Division-IV championship.
It was the second straight NCS crown for the team, and the school’s fourth ever, and the No. 6 seeds had to do it the hard way, traveling to beat the top three seeds in the bracket on three consecutive weekends.
Even more impressively, it was the 10th consecutive playoff win for this group, many of whom were a part of the 5-A state championship winning squad of a year ago.
Most of the seniors on this team close out their high school careers having never lost in the postseason, and with a state championship and two NCS titles.
And that’s something no other group in the history of the H-DNL can claim.
“Honestly, the G.O.A.T.s for sure,” Benbow said. “I’m not sure there’s another group that’s going to be able to do something like that.”
Defense steps up again
On Saturday night, they certainly played like one of the greatest Fortuna teams of all time, coming to grips with a previously undefeated Moreau Catholic squad and pulling away as the game wore on.
While the Fortuna defense was able to adapt to stop standout running back Ison Fresh and the high-powered Mariners offense, their opponents were never able to come to grips with the Huskies’ offense.
Fortuna scored nine rushing touchdowns on the night, pulling out to a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter and ending the game as a contest long before the final buzzer.
“Hat’s off to our kids, for just week in and week out being gritty and doing what had to be done, and doing what they had to do for each other,” Benbow said.
All nine touchdowns were scored by seniors, with Zac Claus and Joey Pontes capping remarkable individual seasons with three TD runs each.
Travis Lourenzo also ran in for two touchdowns, while Jason Besanceney ran in for another.
The two teams came out of the starting gates on fire, with each finding the end zone on their opening three possessions.
The Huskies led throughout, however, opening up an 8-0 lead barely more than two minutes in when Pontes scored a TD from three yards out, before a botched snap on the ensuing PAT was picked up by Sheaden Kadle who completed a two-point pass to Daeden Taylor.
The Huskies should have known it was going to be that sort of night when a squib kick by Claus on the opening kickoff was recovered by Fortuna to set up the opening score.
Claus found the end zone untouched from 11 yards out on the Huskies’ next possession, as Fortuna’s veteran line set the tone early.
Lourenzo made it three for three on their next possession, after a big reception by Levi Nyberg set up the scoring play.
Each time the Huskies scored, however, the Mariners answered in the form of Ison, who scored their first four TDs.
But the Huskies’ defense grew into the game, and after allowing the three first-quarter scores, they held the top seeds to just two TDs the remainder of the way.
“I’ll tell you what, in Humboldt County we play a different brand of football, and they were not used to teams being that physical,” Benbow said of the Mariners. “We were just way more physical up front.
“They were not prepared for what we brought.”
No way back
The Huskies were forced to punt on their fourth possession, but quickly re-found their rhythm when Claus capped a 54-yard drive with his second TD of the night, before back-to-back defensive stops gave them a 29-21 lead at halftime.
After receiving the ball to begin the second half, the Huskies added to their lead when Lourenzo scored on a 12-yard run, his second TD of the game, before Ison responded yet again, scoring for a fourth time to bring his team back within eight points.
It was his 32nd TD of the season.
Fortuna came right back, however, with Claus finding the end zone a third time, before Pontes scored on a 40-yard run to make it a 20-point advantage early in the fourth.
After that, there was no coming back for the top seeds.
The Huskies finished with 387 yards rushing, paced by Pontes with 188 yards.
Lourenzo added 91 yards rushing.
Ison finished with 200 yards rushing for the Mariners.