Panthers end long championship drought with shutout win

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The Panthers ended a long championship drought on the football field on Saturday, guaranteeing themselves at least a share of the Little 4 with their fourth straight victory.

And they did it in style, with their defense holding on late for the shutout in a 34-0 victory at Ferndale.

“It’s big for the school and big for the program,” head coach Fel Barlow said. 

McKinleyville is now 4-0 in league play, with Arcata and Hoopa both 2-2 and Ferndale 0-4, and two games remaining each.

The Panthers can clinch the title outright with a win in either of their final two games at Hoopa and at Arcata.

The league title is the first for the school in football since the early 90s, when the Panthers competed in the Little 5, although we’re still trying to track down exactly what year it was.

The Panthers have played mostly in the Big 5 since the 90s, with the exception of a three-year spell in the L4 from 2008 to 2010.

They returned to the Little 4 in 2018.

Senior quarterback Jack Clancy threw three touchdown passes in Saturday’s win, including two to receiver Mettah Kuska.

He also threw a TD pass to Willy Patton, while running backs John Randall and Tyler Marsh both also ran in for TDs.

According to the coach, what impressed him the most about the way his players played was “their heart,” and after giving up a big lead to the Cats the last time these two teams met, this time around there was no letdown.

Tenoch Tapia also had a key interception to help secure the shutout, which was the team’s second of the season.

“He just came back form injury and it was good to see he was able to help out the defense,” Barlow said of Tapia. “Overall, we played well.”

The McKinleyville JVs also won 14-0, giving the Panthers two shutout victories on the day.

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