Saturday's North Coast Section Division IV championship game at Humboldt State University has been postponed indefinitely after poor road conditions prevented the St. Mary's High football team from reaching Arcata.
NCS associate commissioner Karen Smith said Friday night the game between St. Mary's and Fortuna will not be played Saturday or Monday but possibly next weekend as the section tries to work something out with both schools.
St. Mary's left for the game in Arcata on Friday afternoon but winter weather conditions late Friday night forced road closures on Interstate 5 and Highway 101, preventing the Panthers from getting close to their destination.
St. Mary's coach Keith Minor said he started to get phone calls about the road conditions after the team's bus passed the Interstate 505 interchange. After the team stopped for food, Minor got a call from a St. Mary's administrator telling him to stay put for the time being. Shortly after, the team was told to turn around, as several roads were impassible and no hotel rooms were available.
St. Mary's had already logged 168 miles round-trip in its past two NCS Division IV playoff games, and the Panthers players were not bothered by another game away from home -- even though this one was more than 275 miles one way. St. Mary's, seeded No. 5, was playing in its first NCS championship game since 1999 and seeking the program's first section crown.
"Hopefully we'll play soon and put this to bed," Minor said. "We've been waiting 14 years to play for an NCS title, another three days ain't going to kill us. ... You know what, all good things come to those who wait."
The Panthers (9-4) defeated two higher seeds in the past two weeks, including an upset of No. 1 San Marin 35-29 in Novato on Nov. 30. St. Mary's Liam Godfrey scored three first-half touchdowns as the Panthers held a 21-6 halftime lead and earned the semifinal win.
On their way to their first NCS football title game since 1999, the Panthers also traveled to No. 4 St. Helena, dominated the first half and went on to a 24-7 second-round victory.
"They're upset, they want to play football. They're tough-minded kids," Minor said when asked how his players were doing. "They want to play football, so they're kind of upset."
In 1999, St. Mary's lost to Foothill in the 2A East Bay championship. But it has been almost as long a drought for second-seed Fortuna (10-2), which has not played in a section championship game since 2000, when it won the NCS 2A Redwood Empire title.
Staff writers Phil Jensen and Matt Schwab contributed to this story.