Panthers get set to host eight-team MIST this weekend

By Ray Hamill — Eight teams will battle it out at the 2023 McKinleyville Invitational Soccer Tournament this weekend, as the local boys soccer season begins to build momentum.

The two-day tournament gets under way on Friday, with the championship scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

And day one will feature a pair of all-local showdowns, as the Del Norte Warriors are set to appear at the annual tournament for the first time in years.

Also competing in this year’s tournament are Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna, Fort Bragg, Willits and Summit Tamalpais.

The tournament kicks off with two games at noon.

Del Norte plays league favorites Fortuna and Arcata plays Eureka.

The action continues at 3 p.m., when Arcata plays Willits and Del Norte plays Fort Bragg.

Rounding out the day’s action, Eureka plays Willits and Fortuna plays Fort Bragg, both at 6 p.m.

McKinleyville and Summit Tamalpais will begin tournament play on Saturday.

The tournament will feature 30-minute halves, with overtime periods for the knockout games only.

“With Del Norte coming down this year, we’ll get a good look at everybody’s squad (in league),” McKinleyville head coach Ryne Deppe said.

The Panthers are 2-1 on the season, having lost to Fortuna (4-0) and beaten both Willits (4-0) and Lower Lake (5-3).

The Lower Lake game last weekend was an exciting one, with the Panthers taking a 3-0 lead only for the Trojans to battle back to tie the game early in the second half.

The Mack boys, however, would respond with two more goals to take the win.

Whether the Panthers can challenge for a league title this fall remains to be seen, but Deppe believes they will catch some teams by surprise.

“Our soccer IQ is higher than it’s been in quite a few years,” the coach said. “We still have a lot of juniors, but we have a lot of high IQ players.”

Senior Flynn Creighton is one of three team captains this year, along with juniors Pedro Ramirez and Rylee Collart, the latter of whom was a team captain as a sophomore as well.

And Deppe is looking forward to the challenge this weekend, with the Panthers opening tournament play against Summit Tamalpais on Saturday.

“We’re playing a very quality Summit Tamalpais team and I think it’ll be a big barometer for us,” the coach said. 

The Panthers play Summit Tamalpias at 11:30 a.m.

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