By Ray Hamill — The Ferndale Wildcats will be looking for a disciplined performance on defense and some balance on offense as they get set to open the North Coast Section Division-V playoffs at Berean Christian on Saturday.
The No. 6 seed Eagles have a pair of big playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and first order of business for the Wildcats will be to find a way to contain them.
So for head coach Clint McClurg and his players, it all starts on defense.
“They have a couple of talented student athletes that are going to be a big challenge,” the Ferndale head coach said of seniors Niko Iosefa and Scott Rodriguez. “And we’re going to have to contain them.”
The high-scoring Eagles have scored 50 or more points in each of their past three games, and the only time they’ve been held under 30 in the past five weeks was against an impressive Los Lomas team, which is seeded third in Division-III.
So the Cats will probably need to put up some points if they are to have any chance of a road upset against an Eagles team that also features plenty of athleticism.
And to do that, according to their coach, they’ll need a balanced performance on the offensive side of the ball.
“You’ve got to throw the ball, you’ve got to be balanced, and you’ve got to take what people are giving you,” McClurg said. “But ultimately we have to establish our running game.”
The Cats will get a boost with the return of lineman Dominic Regli, who missed last week’s loss at Arcata due to personal commitments.
And that allows Cody Collings to switch back to running back.
It’s been a case of plugging holes all season for the Cats, who have had to battle an assortment of injuries since before opening weekend.
But the players haver stepped up, plugging those holes as needed whenever one of their teammates goes down.
A near full healthy squad this weekend, however, will give McClurg and his staff some much-needed options.
“The one thing you love about team sports is, if you’re a team you have to buy into what’s in the best interest for the team, and I’m very proud of these young men for what they’ve done,” McClurg said.
The Cats will travel down to Walnut Creek on Friday, so they won’t have to worry about the long trip on the same day as the game, especially with the early afternoon kickoff.
And preparations, according to the coach, have gone about as well as could be expected.
“It’s been a solid week for us. We’re just getting football ready,” McClurg said. “Even this late in the season, there’s still an opportunity to get better in the fundamentals of the game.”
Saturday’s game is set for 1:30 p.m.