By Ray Hamill — The Ferndale Wildcats and Fortuna Huskies will battle it out for the Milk Can on Saturday afternoon in one of the best annal rivalry games here on the North Coast.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Ferndale, with the schools’ JV teams facing off beforehand.
Recent history favors the Huskies, who have won the past two annual meetings and eight of the past nine.
The Cats, in fact, have not beaten their biggest rivals at home since 2012, although they pulled off an impressive 13-7 win at Fortuna in 2019.
Three of current Ferndale players — Kannon Christiansen, Jack Westfall and Nathan Wence — were freshmen on that team and will be looking to pull off a rare second Milk Can win over their neighbors.
Both teams are also 1-2 heading into the showdown, which appears wide open this year.
Ferndale’s lone win came at South Fork two weeks ago, which was sandwiched between losses at Fall River and Clear Lake, a pair of unbeaten teams.
The Huskies, meanwhile, got their first win of the year at Kelseyville last week, which ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to last year.
Saturday’s game will be their fourth straight on the road to start this season, but head coach Mike Benbow believes his team is making progress.
“I think we’re learning a little about ourselves every week,” he said. “We have improved our effort for sure. And I think they’re starting to trust each other and starting to be more of a cohesive unit as a team.”
The long-time coach, who also played for Fortuna in the Milk Can, knows the Ferndale players will give it their all, in this game more than any.
“They always play hard,” he said of the Cats. “We know we’re going to get their best game of the year. There’s a lot of bragging rights involved in this one.”
With Coltyn Corning out injured, Chad Mussey will take on a bigger role at quarterback for Fortuna, although the junior has been impressing his coach, who feels he’s ready to step up.
Senior Wyatt McKinight also has been playing a key role in the team’s development while leading the way on the line.
Benbow also praised the work of his entire defense in their preparation for the big game.
A small Cats roster, meanwhile welcomed back Westfall last week after their senior quarterback missed the first two games through injury.
However, he could also see time at running back, with junior Thomas Fergison showing he is a more-than-reliable option under center in Westfall’s absence.
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