Panthers determined to bounce back after tough loss

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – The McKinleyville players take the field before Friday night’s game against Kelseyville.

By Ray Hamill — Going into their season opener against Kelseyville with just 13 players was never going to be easy for the Panthers at McKinleyville High School on Friday night.

The Knights out-matched the home team and rolled to a comfortable 62-12 win, but Mack head coach Fel Barlow and his players are determined to battle back.

“They were a little mad,” Barlow said of his players. “They don’t like getting beat like that, but when the coaches talked to them about the situation they realized that was just game one and we’ve still got a season ahead of us.”

The Panthers were short-handed for their season opener after injuries, grades and transfer rules all took their toll.

They have a bye next weekend before hosting an impressive Fortuna team in two weeks, and it’s likely they will go into that game with just 13 players as well.

After that, however, the roster should begin to fill out and the Panthers will be hoping to kickstart their season sooner rather than later.

Despite the lopsided defeat on Friday, there were some bright spots for the Mack players.

Their three senior leaders all made an impact and had some big plays.

Quarterback Willy Patton threw a pair of touchdown passes to fellow seniors Ayden Hillis and Tyler Marsh, in the second and third quarters.

“It got a little out of hand. Our guys just got a little tired,” Barlow said. “But I’m proud of them. 13 kids going against a powerhouse school.”

The Panthers needed to avoid injuries for the game and they did, but Barlow said there were a few players cramping up late in the game after such a heavy workload.

Junior linebacker Owen Solus-Giannini and lineman Stephen Graves both also battled hard for the home team and impressed their coach.

“It was a good learning (experience) for our linebackers,” Barlow said. “A lot of them are fresh out of the gates.”

The McKinleyville JVs also lost their opener, falling 27-0.

1 reply »

  1. Why are there so few players? CDE website shows school enrollment of 525. Mckinleyville football should have more than 5% on their roster. Is it apathy or something else? They need to investigate and find out the issue, fix it, and double the roster.

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