File photo – Che Jimenez has been a bright spot for the Panthers early in the season.

An injury to a key player did not help matters for the McKinleyville Panthers at Willits on Friday night.

Neither did some poor tackling and their inability to finish drives.

Through their opening two games of the season, the 0-2 Panthers have shown plenty of positive signs, moving the ball well at times on offense and stalling the Wolverines for much of Friday’s game despite losing 20-0.

Giving up big plays has been a concern, however, and the bigger issue the Panthers need to address ahead of next week’s game against Fort Bragg is how to find the end zone.

“We’ve got to work on finishing drives, and cleaning up our little mistakes,” head coach Keoki Burbank said. 

Through their two games, the Panthers have managed just three points, although they have moved the ball well at times, with a much-improved passing game this season.

Two early factors proved costly in Friday’s loss.

After giving up an 80-yard TD return on the Wolverines’ opening play of the game, the Panthers lost defensive end/tight end Matt Schwartz to a leg injury before the end of the first quarter.

And on a small roster that was already missing two players for personal reasons, as well as starting kicker Caleb Coke who had soccer commitments, an injury like that can be pivotal.

There were also some bright spots.

The passing attack threw two interceptions, well down from week one, and receiver Che Jimenez continues to impress with some big catches.

“I thought we played good at times,” Burbank said. “But we definitely didn’t set a good tone giving up the opening kickoff.

“But defensively I thought we were doing good most of the time.”

The Panthers D shut out the home team for the first half, and gave up just two TDs all night.

Willits running back Jacob Arms, however, caused the Panthers problems all night, turning what should have been a loss into a 10 or 15 yard gain time and again, and keeping drives going.

Arms scored all three touchdowns for Willits.

For more on the game, see Humboldt Sports Friday Night Football roundup.

The Panthers will host Fort Bragg at the Redwood Bowl next Friday night.

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Ray Hamill writes at, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.