The Ferndale Wildcats had to withstand a late Panthers rally at McKinleyville on Friday night, but held on for their second straight win by a score of 32-24.
Senior Cole Carmesin had another big game against his former school, recovering a late onside kick and returning it half the length of the field for what would prove to be the winning score.
“It definitely was a close contested game,” Ferndale head coach Clint McClurg said. “The difference tonight, I think, was just our players rallying around each other and trying to bring a little bit of positive energy when our backs were to the wall, and trusting our proven experience.”
After opening the season with four straight losses and having to battle some devastating injuries and COVID setbacks, the Wildcats have got their season back on track with back-to-back conference wins and are right in the thick of a championship race.
Two players who have been instrumental in the turnaround are Jack Westfall and Kannon Christiansen, each of whom found the end zone again on Friday.
Christiansen scored on a pair of TD runs and also pulled in a two-point conversion catch from quarterback Aaiden Burris after Carmesin’s touchdown.
Senior captains Seth Regli and Derek Griffith also continue to impress along the lines and have also been a big part of the team’s turnaround.
“Seth Regli was just really, really outstanding on both sides of the ball,” McClurg said. “And Jack Westfall once again was making plays on offense and on defense, and so was Kannon Christiansen.”
Carmesin who has missed the past few games through injury, played only on defense as he eases his way back, but had a “huge, huge impact,” according to the head coach, who added that Burris has played extremely well at quarterback in Carmesin’s absence.
“Defensively we’ve played seven quarters extremely well,” McClurg said. “It starts with our leaders and these young men just continue to improve.”
McClurg said the turnaround is down to the “willingness of our team to show up during practice week and get better.”
No scoring details were immediately available for McKinleyville.
With the win, the Wildcats are now 2-1 in the Little 4 and 2-4 overall.
The Panthers dropped to 1-2 in conference and 4-3 overall.