By Ray Hamill — The North Coast Section football playoffs finally resume this weekend, with a pair of local teams involved, each of them in Division IV, and each of them playing on the road this Saturday.
No. 5 seed St. Bernard’s will travel to Novato to play No. 4 San Marin, while No. 6 Fortuna will head to Richmond to play No. 3 Kennedy.
Both games will be broadcast live on The Mix 95.1 FM and the Edge 106.7 FM, with the St. Bernard’s game getting under way at 1 p.m., and the Fortuna game at 7 p.m.
St. Bernard’s at San Marin, 1 p.m., Saturday
The game plan for St. Bernard’s will be the same as it was going to be two weeks ago, when this game was originally scheduled to take place before being postponed on three separate occasions due to poor air quality in the Bay Area.
The Crusaders will try to set the tone with their quick-tempo, dynamic pass attack, while on the other side of the ball, containing a dangerous San Marin run game will be key, especially senior standout Zak Cunningham.
“We have to stop San Marin’s running game, and offensively we have to throw the ball, and throw it a lot,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said.
The Crusaders (7-4) have been doing that much of the season, with quarterback Will Omey one of the most dynamic dual threat quarterbacks in the section.
Omey, who led the NCS in total offensive yards this year, has several playmakers at his disposal, and finding an early rhythm with them will be key to getting that pass attack going after a three-week layoff from games.
The Mustangs, meanwhile, come into the clash at 7-3 and have not played in almost a month after a first-round playoff bye.
Tomlin handled the extra time by giving his players four days off last weekend to get their minds off the delays and the controversy surrounding them.
“We decided on Friday, once the game got canceled, to take a four-day weekend to get away from it,” the head coach said. “We’d already practiced two weeks for this team.”
The break appeared to work too.
“They came back on Tuesday and Wednesday with two outstanding practices,” Tomlin added. “I think we’re really prepared for it.”
The Mustangs have been limited with their outdoor practices during the long layoff, returning outside this week after nearly two weeks of dangerous air quality levels.
The Crusaders are also as healthy as they have been all season, with the postponements allowing the team rest up and clear up any lingering injury problems.
The two schools met in last season’s quarterfinal, with the Crusaders prevailing 64-21.
San Marin has lost at the NCS quarterfinal stage in each of the past two seasons and will be hoping third time is the charm.
Saturday’s pregame radio coverage gets under way at 12:40 p.m.
Fortuna at Kennedy, 7 p.m., Saturday
The good news for the Huskies is that they have had plenty of time to get healthy over the past few weeks.
Senior Jason Besanceney returns to the lineup for the trip to Richmond, with sophomore Levi Nyberg expected back next week should the Huskies advance.
That gives head coach Mike Benbow and his staff almost a full complement of players for the first time in over a month after a bruising league schedule took its toll on the squad.
Which gives offensive coordinator Clint Duey and experienced senior quarterback Zac Claus plenty of options to keep the home defense on its toes.
As with St. Bernard’s, the strategy for the quarterfinal matchup hasn’t changed despite the delays.
“First of all, we need our offense to eat up a lot of clock,” Benbow said. “And our defense is going to have to tackle in space.”
The Eagles have a legitimate dual threat quarterback in Cameron Young, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, while passing for 834 yards and 11 TDs.
Impressive playoff streak
The Huskies come into the clash at 6-5 on the year, putting a disappointing 0-3 league campaign behind them with a dominating win at home to El Molino in the opening round of the playoffs.
And, according to their head coach, the Huskies have been taking the delays in their stride.
“We’re enjoying practice,” Benbow said this week. “We’re enjoying spending time together, and the fact we’re still together playing. For a lot of teams, the season’s over.”
The Huskies are well used to playing deep into the postseason, having now qualified for the playoffs in 12 consecutive years.
They are also currently riding a seven-game playoff winning streak, something they’ll be looking to extend this weekend.
Del Norte awaits the winner
The Eagles are 8-2 on the year, dropping their season finale at Salesian and slipping to the No. 3 seed in Division IV.
That means whichever team wins this game will advance to play at No. 2 Del Norte in next weekend’s semifinal.
Like San Marin, the Eagles also have not played in almost a month, while being limited with their outdoor practices as well, and that rustiness may play a part early in this game.
Fortuna and Kennedy are playing each other for the first time ever in football.
Saturday’s radio broadcast gets under way with the pregame show at 6:40 p.m.