By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies could very well be the team to beat on the North Coast this season.
It certainly looked that way in Friday night’s opener at McKinleyville, as they cruised to a 33-0 first-quarter lead on the way to a 54-18 win.
More important for both teams, however, was just getting to play a game of football for the first time in close to 16 months.
“I tell you what, I was so pleased and happy when we kicked off for the first time,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. “It was magical. Just the fact we were able to get a game it, that was one of the best moments of the year for me.”
The Huskies announced themselves decisively on the opening play from scrimmage, when quarterback Max Hough combined with receiver Branson Gans on a 55-yard scoring pass.
“We came out pretty fast and we were able to use our speed a little bit,” Benbow said. “And we executed well.”
Hough got his senior season off to an impressive start, completing 7-of-9 passes for 174 yards, two TDs and an interception, while also running for a TD.
Likewise with Gans, who led the receivers with two catches for 97 yards, while Levi Nyberg ran for 67 yards and a TD on just three carries.
The Huskies dominated defensively, with both Weylon McNight and Logan Miranda returning interceptions for touchdowns.
Check out Logan Miranda’s pick six below …
“They were up 33 points before we even had a chance to blink, and that’s what comes from having a very young team against a very seasoned team.”
The Panthers, to their credit, never gave up the fight, even with the game well out of hand early.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Clancy opened their scoring on an 79-yard TD run early in the second quarter, and running back Connor Berg added two TD runs.
“What I liked about my guys is that for the most part they didn’t quit,” Burbank said. “I can definitely see a change in that and a difference with this group.
“And on the bright side, it was good to see our guys play a game.”
Clancy is one of several promising young players at Mack and offers the Panthers a different element at quarterback.
“I wouldn’t say he played great, but he played well,” Burbank said. “His legs are definitely an advantage for us.”
Sophomore Azure Watrous de salinas also impressed for the Panthers at defensive end and offensive guard, while Berg had some solid runs.
“Connor Berg battled really hard tonight,” Burbank said.
Branson Gans scores on a 55-yard TD reception on the opening play from scrimmage …
“They kept fighting, and they were having fun at the end,” he said. “That’s a young team that’s going to be really good down the road.”
For Fortuna, Connor Pratt also had two receptions for 48 yards and a TD, while Regan Nyberg added 2 catches for 20 yards and Garrett Elmore one catch for nine yards.
Asa McKenzie ran for 46 yardss on three carries, while Breck Bishop had three carries for 10 yards and touchdown, and Micaiah Montalbin had two carries for 12 yards and a TD.
Miranda also had two carries for 13 yards and Brandon August three carries for 11 yards.
The Fortuna JVs also won, defeating McKinleyville 18-0.