Shorthanded Hoopa Warriors fall to Fort Bragg in exciting opener


Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Hoopa QB Lane Campbell in action on Saturday.

By Ray Hamill — Fort Bragg’s Trevon Melhtan capped a big day running the ball with an eight-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter, lifting the Timberwolves to a 24-14 win over Hoopa at St. Bernard’s on Saturday afternoon.

Melhtan, a junior, had a busy afternoon and continually caused the Warriors problems in what was an entertaining and evenly-matched game.

A young Hoopa team showed plenty of promise, but were missing three starting linemen and ultimately committed too many first-game mistakes.

“The other guys who stepped in, they played their hearts out,” Hoopa head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings said. “They came in and they played hard.”

Both offenses enjoyed productive first halves, with each stringing together multiple sustained drives and scoring a pair a TDs apiece.

The game got off to an exciting start, when the Warriors recovered their own onside kick, only to fumble away possession on the very first snap.

Fort Bragg then marched 57 yards on 11 plays and opened the scoring on a three-yard TD run by Bryson Orsi.

Hoopa, however, answered immediately, capping a nine-play drive with a nine-yard Jason Marshall TD run, and a two-point conversion on a pass from quarterback Lane Campbell to Andrew Hunsucker.

Campbell epitomized the team’s heart more than anyone all game.

“This kid is phenomenal,” Billings said of the junior QB, who also played a pivotal role on defense after moving to safety in the second half. “He’s got it down, he’s got the IQ, and you can tell he enjoys it out there.

“One good thing about him is he keeps plays alive.”

With the game tied 8-8, the Timberwolves appeared to be driving for a go-ahead score, but were denied when Hoopa’s Gavin Albers came away with a key interception at the Warriors’ four-yard line.

Hoopa carried that momentum and took the lead six plays later when the very-dangerous Darvin Davis took a reception from Campbell 61 yards down the sideline to give the Warriors a 14-8 advantage.

That, however, was the last of the scoring for the Warriors, who were shut out the remainder of the day.

Fort Bragg re-took the lead two minutes before halftime, when Chance Tager capped a 15-play, 68 yard drive with a 21-yard TD reception from quarterback Alec Villalpando.

Tager also had a key interception later in the game, as both offenses stalled for much of the second half.

While the Warriors were missing three starting linemen and had just five of them suit up for the game, their skill position players showed a lot of promise, especially considering it was their first game of the season after being forced to cancel the past two weekends.

In addition to Campbell, the likes of AJ Perez, Ryan Ames, Talon Borden, Benjamin Hunsucker and Marshall all played well.

Davis also had a good game and displayed his toughness when scoring his long TD after suffering a leg injury early in the game.

He was sidelined for the third quarter and was notably missed, before returning later.

“I was proud of my boys, they played tough,” Billings said. “It was a great chess match. I love those kind of games.”

The Hoopa JVs also were in action, losing 28-0 to St. Bernard’s.

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