Panthers shut out the Cats, keep playoff hopes alive

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The McKinleyville Panthers defense posted a shutout for the second time in four days on Saturday afternoon, and this time their offense did enough to win the game.

Just days after falling 6-0 to Hoopa in a make-up game that was decided on a special teams touchdown, the Panthers won 12-0 at Ferndale to keep their playoff hopes on track.

Tyler Marsh scored both touchdowns, one in either half, and the Panthers held on late despite the Wildcats dominating possession in the fourth quarter.

“We played excellent today. There were no mental breakdowns” McKinleyville head coach Fel Barlow said. “We were kind of worried because we had five penalties in the first few minutes, but then they settled down and they really started to play well.”

The Panthers defense has been a strength for the team for much of the season and that continued this week with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.

They came up with three takeaways on Saturday, including a pair of forced fumbles and recoveries by Derek Ray and one by Connor Alto.

When asked what impressed him the most about the performance, defensive coordinator Deunn Willis said, “Their relentlessness. We did a lot of gang tackling today. We were one heartbeat today.”

Marsh’s two TDs both came on long plays.

He ran in for one touchdown and scored the other on a reception from quarterback Jack Clancy.

“The whole team played great,” Barlow said. “It was a team effort and that’s what it’s going to take when we get to the playoffs.”

With the win, the Panthers close out the regular season with a record of 5-5, including a 2-4 mark in the Little 4.

They came into this week ranked fifth among Division-7 teams in the NCS, according to MaxPreps, and Saturday’s win should be enough to qualify for the eight-team playoff field.

They will find out their playoff fate early Sunday afternoon.

Ferndale closes out the season with a record of  2-7, including a 2-4 mark in the Little 4.

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