The last time Ferndale High football beat Fortuna the Wildcats were in the midst of what would turn out to be a section championship season.
The year was 2012. Former Ferndale head coach Kim Jorgensen led his Wildcats to a 20-14 win at home in the annual Milk Can Game, bringing the coveted can back to Coach Carlson Field.
Since then, however, the trophy has resided across the Eel River Valley in Fortuna.
After losing the game to Ferndale in 2011 and 2012 Fortuna has won, mostly in dominant fashion, the previous six Milk Can games and has won 7-of-10 meetings dating back to 2009.
Heading into the 2019 edition of the Milk Can Game, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday at Fortuna High, Ferndale’s head coach Clint McClurg says Humboldt County’s oldest rivalry is one which needs no extra emphasis.
“I think this game is all about what the Eel River Community is about — and that’s getting up and going to work,” McClurg said. “These are a couple of blue-collar communities and these football teams are the same way.”
Fortuna’s head coach Mike Benbow, who has been on the sideline for his fair share of the rivalry’s running’s, said the game is a “tradition” and gives the young men of the area a “special opportunity” to play their friends from across the valley.
“A few coaches who’ll be on the sideline Friday, myself included, played in this game when we were in high school,” Benbow said.
Ferndale will enter Friday’s game fresh off a road win over Fall River—McAurther. The 36-14 win was a big one for Ferndale, which handed Fall River its first regular season loss since 2017. Fall River had won 16 consecutive regular season games entering the contest and had captured a Northern Section D-V title in 2018.
It was quite a different outcome from Ferndale’s opener on Aug. 24, a home game which it lost 28-17 to Clear Lake.
“The thing about football is that it humbles you,” McClurg said. “And we, coaches and players, ate the whole humble pie (in the loss to Clear Lake). The great thing about football is that you get what you earn. Last week, we wanted a win and we went out and earned it.”
McClurg credited the play of his two leaders in the trenches, Orion Benton and Dominic Regli, with being stalwarts on both sides of the ball in the win.
Kudos to Haven Harrington who filled in admirably for injured offensive lineman Caden Rocha last week. McClurg also praised Taner Zanone, a junior seeing more field time in the trenches and his trusty tight-end Tristen Martin for notable contributions in the win.
Landon Gomes had two scores in the win against Fall River and his quarterback Jenner Christiansen threw for a touchdown. Look for both of them to find the endzone a couple more times if Ferndale wants to keep it close with Fortuna on Friday.
Fortuna began its season with a grueling 3-game road trip.
It returns to its home field Friday for its first game in front of the Huskies faithful following a thorough 29-12 win at Kelseyville.
Benbow was pleased with the play of his offensive line in the win. The big fellas paved the way for a 423-yard rushing night for Fortuna.
Levi Nyberg, who was kept out of the endzone in Fortuna’s first two games, broke through on Friday with three touchdowns on the ground and 192 rushing yards on 22 carries. Kobe Letter also had another nice night for Fortuna in the win, rushing for 96 yards.
“Our offensive line started to click,” Benbow said. “Both our (running backs) ran hard and as a unit I think we just did a lot of things well. Levi had a great night but it was the o-line who made it great for him.”