By Ray Hamill — The Panthers may have found a new hero in Velid Mujezinovic.
More importantly, Thomas Locatelli may have found a new partner in crime.
The two Mack linemen caused havoc all night against Fort Bragg at the Redwood Bowl on Friday, as the Panthers held on for a 21-15 win, their first of the season.
It was the sort of performance that left you wondering how come they haven’t won before, and the sort of performance that suggests they will get more.
There were several big performances, none more so than Mujezinovic, an exchange student from Bosnia who was playing his first ever game of American football.
Dubbed “the Bosnian Bear” by his coach, Mujezinovic has had an immediate impact.
“The thing I thought he did so well was he made it so Thomas could have a great game as well,” head coach Keoki Burbank said. “Thomas is usually the focal point of our defense and they couldn’t do that tonight. If they tried to double-team Velid, Thomas would make a play, and if they double-teamed Thomas, Velid would make a play.
“I thought our defensive line played really well.”
The win was even more impressive considering the Panthers gave up an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play of the game.
For the second straight week.
Which left many in the stands wondering if it was going to be a long night for the home team.
The Panthers, however, answered in perfect fashion, marching 55 yards on eight plays and scoring on a one-yard QB sneak by Jack Patton to trail 7-6.
The defense took over after that and essentially shut down the Timberwolves for much of the night, holding the visitors to just three first downs for the first half.
“Three times we stopped them on fourth and one,” Burbank said.
Offensively, Kyler Carr had a big game and continued to set the tone running the ball.
The senior fullback scored on a pair of TD runs after the interval as the Panthers pulled out to a two-score lead.
“We kept pounding and pounding, and all of a sudden one would pop,” Burbank said.
Che Jimenez had a big game on both sides of the ball.
“It was definitely a team win. We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things,” Burbank said.
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Dakota Jones also stepped up with several big tackles.
The McKinleyville JVs continued their impressive unbeaten start to the season with a third straight win, defeating Fort Bragg 32-22.
And they came from behind for the second straight week, shutting out the visitors in the second half with 26 unanswered points.
It was the first time in at least five years the Mack varsity and JVs have swept on the same night.