By Ray Hamill — The Ferndale Wildcats will try to get back to winning ways when they play at McKinleyville on Friday night, while the Panthers will be looking to get their first win after a couple of tough matchups to start the season.
Last weekend, the Cats fell 21-0 to Fortuna — the No. 1 team in this week’s Humboldt Sports Power Rankings — but Mack head coach Keoki Burbank knows Ferndale (1-1) is a dangerous proposition despite that shutout loss.
“Ferndale is always going to play hard, disciplined football, and that defense is good,” Burbank said. “(RB/LB Lane) Branstetter is a good football player, and I think (Jenner) Christiansen has come into his own as a quarterback. You know they’re going to be a good football team.”
The Panthers have a lot of young talent and appear to be headed that way as well, although matchups against the two deepest squads on the North Coast over the past two weeks have taken their toll.
The small school program has had its hands full going up against Fortuna and Eureka, and have a number of game-time decisions on injured players this week.
But they’re looking forward to playing a similar-sized program for a change.
“I think we’re feeling positive,” Burbank said of his players. “It will be nice to play a team with a similar roster size. We’re just trying to recover from injuries and get healthy again. We’ve had two brutal games in a row.”
The Cats also play a similar style of offense to Eureka, making preparations a little easier for the Panthers this week.
“The good thing is we played a Wing-T in Eureka, so hopefully that will play into our hands,” Burbank said.
The Wildcats, however, feature a lot of weapons in addition to Branstetter and Christiansen, and while the roster may be small it’s packed with experienced seniors who are playing well this year.
So time of possession will be key for McKinleyville.
“The game plan is we want to make sure we tackle better and just read our keys defensively,” Burbank said. “And offensively we’ve got to continue to take care of the ball and continue to have (quarterback) Jack (Clancy) grow as a passer and try to wear them down and hold the ball longer than Ferndale.”
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m., with the JVs kicking off at 5 p.m.