O-Line sets the tone as Wildcats wear down the Panthers

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Action from Saturday’s game at Ferndale.

By Ray Hamill — The Ferndale Wildcats quickly put the disappointment of their recent Milk Can loss behind them with a statement win in their Little 4 opener.

The Cats cruised to a comfortable 35-0 victory over McKinleyville in the Cream City on Saturday, wearing down the visitors with their relentless running game.

“That was a tough bye week,” Ferndale head coach Clint McClurg said. “But credit to these young men, they were a little bit chippy because they weren’t happy.”

The Wildcats, who improved to 3-2 overall, were all business from the opening kickoff, dominating in the trenches and scoring on their opening three possessions to quickly take control.

They went into the break with a 21-0 lead and would add two more touchdowns in the second half, with all five scores coming on the ground.

“Definitely the front five are taking care of business,” McClurg said. 

That unit includes sophomore center Ethan Weitzel, who has quickly become a force for the Cats, as well as well as guards Skiler Hall and Andrew Clevenger and tackles Juan Mena-Funes and Kacey Luster.

Those five, along with tight ends Jonah Anderson and Wes Renner, paved the way to victory and continually opened holes for a dangerous running game.

Thomas Fergison opened the scoring on a four-yard TD run late in the first quarter before Tanner Pidgeon found the end zone on a seven-yard run early in the second.

Prescott Langer followed with a four-yard TD run midway through the second quarter and would add a second short TD run in the second half.

Trent Titus rounded out the scoring with a fifth touchdown run, while Dayton Comer added five successful PATs.

Weitzel has been particularly impressive through the first half of the season.

Check out Ferndale’s first-half touchdowns below …

“He’s savvy and intellectually brutal,” McClurg said. “He’s playing lights out on both sides of the ball.”

The “scrappy” Hall also has been outstanding this year, as has Clevenger, who McClurg describes as a “little sawed-off shotgun” and a “very explosive” player.

Mena-Funes is only in his third year playing football but has quickly established himself and is a “weight room warrior,” the coach says.

“He’s really coming into his own,” McClurg added.

Luster is a team captain and also has been outstanding on both sides of the ball this year.

“He gives outstanding effort,” his coach said.

The versatile Anderson also has established himself as a key member on this year’s team and plays multiple roles.

“Any position offensively he’d probably know what to do,” McClurg said of the standout junior who had an interception just before halftime.

The loss was the fifth in five games this season for McKinleyville, with mental mistakes proving costly.

“We thought we had prepared the kids, but I guess not,” head coach Fel Barlow said. “We’re making the same repeated mistakes over and over.”

Playing with a small roster hasn’t helped the short-handed Panthers, who have had just 13 players suit up for the opening four games.

They had 14 on Saturday, but an injury to team captain Tyler Marsh late in the first half made things even more difficult.

Marsh is expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

There were, however, some notable bright spots for the Panthers, including he play of Willy Patton, who made “a bunch of tackles,” according to the coach, as well as lineman Steven Graves, who battled hard on both sides of the ball.

The versatile Kaden Waugh also impressed and pulled down an interception after switching to corner back in the second half to fill in for Marsh.

The Ferndale JVs also beat McKinleyville, 24-0.

Next up, Ferndale plays at Hoopa and Ferndale plays at Arcata.

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