Next week, the top two teams on the North Coast will face off in the spring season finale when the 4-0 Fortuna Huskies host the 4-0 Eureka Loggers.
After the Loggers got the better of St. Bernard’s on Saturday afternoon to keep their perfect record in tact, Fortuna matched them with a hard-fought 36-28 win over the Del Norte Warriors in Crescent City on Saturday night.
“It was a great high school game,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said afterwards.
It was certainly entertaining, although a little wild as well.
“That was a crazy game,” Del Norte head coach Nick White said. “There were a lot of turnovers and craziness. But we competed. We gave ourselves a chance to win against a very good Fortuna team.
“We knew it was going to be a good game. Neither team was going to blow the other out.”
The Warriors started the more impressive of the two teams, opening up a 10-0 lead thanks to Caleb Dodson safety, which was the only score of the first quarter, and a 27-yard Giancarlo Desolenni pick six.
But the Huskies took the momentum away with three unanswered second-quarter touchdowns, the first on a 65-yard pass from quarterback Max Hough to receiver Branson Gans, who has been the league MVP through the opening four weeks.
“Branson Gans, he’s kind of our guy,” Benbow said. “And he had a good night.”
After Levi Nyberg added a 13-yard TD run, Gans scored his second TD of the quarter just seconds before halftime on a 33-yard punt return to give the Huskies a 21-10 advantage at the interval.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair with the Huskies answering every time the Warriors scored.
Hough completed 7-of-12 passes for 150 yards, two TDs and two interceptions, with Gans pulling in two catches for 82 yards and Pratt 3 for 72.
Del Norte answered again when Isaiah Parsley connected with Kaleb Price on a 67-yard scoring pass, only for Micaiah Montalbin to add a TD run for the Huskies to restore their advantage to 14 points with 4:32 remaining.
Dodson added Del Norte’s fourth TD of the night on a one-yard run late in the game and the Warriors recovered an onside kick to give themselves a chance at a miracle finish.
But a Pratt interception ended the threat.
“Our kids prepared incredibly for this week,” Benbow said. “Hats off to Del Norte. They’re always tough, especially up here.”
Benbow added that “our defense overall played well,” and that “we were not perfect, but we made plays when we had to.”
Both head coaches said what impressed them most about their team’s performance was their resiliency.
“That resilience, to come back when things go bad,” White said. “Our kids never give up. They keep playing as hard as they can.”
Once again, Tanner Forkner was a huge presence for the Warriors at linebacker.
“He always goes 100 mile an hour,” White said of the senior standout. “He knows what’s going on before it happens. He’s just a student of the game.”’
Del Norte (1-2) was again without senior running back Levi Cox Cooley, who has been sidelined since the opening quarter of the season with a leg injury and is unlikely to feature this spring.
Del Norte won the JV game 22-6.