Fortuna High was shut out in its season opener on the road at Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa 38-0, Thursday night at Recreation Park in Healdsburg.
Cardinal Newman (1-0) stormed out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter and didn’t look back, more than doubling up its lead before halftime to take a 31-0 advantage into halftime.
Cardinal Newman scored on its second play from scrimmage after a lengthy kick return saw them set up shop deep inside Fortuna’s side of the field. Quarterback Jackson Pavitt completed a 21-yard pass to Clay Woo for the home team’s first points of the season. Later in the first quarter Fortuna’s quarterback Daeden Taylor threw an interception to Cardinal Newman’s Shane Moran, who returned it for a touchdown.
Woo scored again for the home team in the second quarter, finding the endzone on a 17-yard run less than a minute into the frame. Later in the quarter Pavitt connected on his second touchdown pass of the ball game, a 10-yard strike to Tsion Nunnally. Cardinal Newman’s kicker finished off his team’s first half scoring with a 36-yard field goal as time wound down in the first half. He ended the game 5-for-5 on extra points to go along with the field goal.
Moran scored the lone points for either team of the second half, making his way into the endzone on a 4-yard rush near the end of the third quarter.
Within what was, on paper, a lopsided contest, Fortuna (0-1) showed a few positives against a higher-division Cardinal Newman team ranked top-3 in the North Coast Section.
In the second quarter Fortuna put together a 12-play, 39-yard drive. After receiving the second-half kickoff, Fortuna again pieced together a long drive, moving 66 yards on 13 plays before turning the ball over on downs on Cardinal Newman’s 14-yard line. Fortuna’s running back Kobe Letter, who led the Huskies with 60 yards on five carries, picked up a 23-yard gain on third down to keep the third-quarter drive alive.
Fortuna had 162 total yards of offense and 152 of them were earned on the ground. Levi Nyberg was Fortuna’s second-leading rusher. The junior had a team-high 17 carries for 53 yards. Taylor had a dozen yards on eight rushes. Taylor, a senior and Max Hough, a junior, each saw time at quarterback on Thursday. Taylor was 1-for-4 with a 10-yard completion to Keith Chittenden and an interception while Hough was 1-for-3.
“The young Huskies hung in there until the end,” Fortuna’s head coach Mike Benbow said during a radio interview following the game. “It’s the way it goes. I’m very, very proud of this team. We play this game to start the season because we want to get better and tonight we took a big step forward from where we were last weekend at the jamboree.”
Kicking the year off with a grueling matchup against Cardinal Newman has become somewhat of a tradition for Fortuna. Thursday’s loss marks the fourth consecutive time Fortuna has opened its season with a loss to Cardinal Newman. In 2017 and 2018, the Huskies went on to win section titles — and a state title in 2017 — after beginning their season with a loss to the Cardinals.
“I’m proud of the effort tonight,” Benbow said. “We’re in a good spot.”
Fortuna will enter the second leg of its 3-game season-opening road trip on Aug. 30 when it takes on Miramonte-Orinda. Cardinal Newman will also hit the road next week as it heads to Sutter on Aug. 30.