Prep football: Willits holds off Cloverdale, 34-14

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Despite a close first half, the rushing attack from the Willits High School football team proved too much for league opponent Cloverdale High School, which lost 34-14 Friday night in Cloverdale.

“Everybody in this league is tough so we knew this would be a tough game. Every game is. So that’s why we say every game ‘Right now,’” Willits head coach Brandon Norbury said.

After dropping their first two games, Cloverdale (2-3, 1-0 North Central I League) came into Friday’s game confident after winning two straight, including last week’s 28-12 victory over Fort Bragg High School in the league opener.

Willits (4-1, 1-0 North Central I) had gotten off to a hot start outscoring opponents 94-32 in the first four contests, which included an impressive 28-0 shutout in late August over a St. Vincent team that has looked unstoppable otherwise.

After the first half the two teams were separated by one score, but the Wolverines’ multifaceted running game ultimately took over in the second half to earn a win for Willits on Friday.

“Our run game was key in the second half. And our defense stepping up and stopping their pass, we knew they liked to throw it deep,” Norbury said.

The Wolverines moved methodically down the field to open the game. They utilized the width of the field to earn some short gains and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run from Nathan Coleman to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Eagles on the other hand relied on the passing game and quarterback Colby Furia, who ripped off a couple big plays on their first drive and came away with a touchdown off an 8-yard pass to Logan Axell to tie the game 7-7 after one quarter.

Willits’ slot back Jacob Arms took over on the next drive running for some big gains on reverses and pitches. The Wolverines capped off the drive with another short touchdown run, this time from Gabe McGinnis, from the 1-yard line and after a missed extra point they led 13-7.

On the next Cloverdale drive, after a 20-yard carry from Furia that put Cloverdale in enemy territory, the Eagles took back the lead with a 2-yard touchdown run from Anthonie Rebottaro.

Following a Willits fumble on the goal line, the Eagles offense took over on their 4-yard line but the Wolverines’ defense answered by sacking the quarterback to force a safety.

Willits didn’t let up, drove down the field quick and scored again, this time, on a 4-yard run by Arms.

The Wolverines led 22-14 at halftime.

“I think they wore us down a little bit up front. They were physical, they ran the ball well and (free safety) Shayne (Turner) going out didn’t help us. We were pretty one-dimensional after that. That’s a good football team, they are much improved from last year,” Cloverdale head coach Greg Alexander said.

The Eagles opened the second half with a 50-yard pass from Furia to Jeses Maciel, but Willits’ defense did not break and forced a turnover on downs.

A defensive battle ensued and both defenses stalled drives for the offense.

With less than three minutes left in the quarter the Wolverines took over on offense and McGinnis broke a 50-yard run for a touchdown to go up two scores leading 28-14 heading into the fourth quarter.

Willits’ rushing game was relentless and utilized the whole field from east to west to continuously tear off big runs, including a 26-yard touchdown run from Arms and walked away with the 34-14 victory to remain unbeaten in NCL I play.

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