By Ray Hamill – Two high-octane offenses will go head to head to decide the inaugural eight-player football North Coast Section championship on Saturday.
After weeks of delays, the top two seeds will finally meet in the decider, with No. 2 South Fork traveling to play No. 1 Branson in a rematch from earlier in the year.
And once again, whichever team can slow down the other on defense is likely to win out.
“Whoever makes the most stops and plays defense will probably win this game,” South Fork head coach Karl Terrell said.
The top seeds are 8-1 on the year, including a remarkably high scoring 62-58 win over Tomales in last week’s NCS semifinal.
The Bulls also won the earlier matchup at South Fork by a score of 36-22 in mid September.
The Cubs, meanwhile, are 8-3 but have not played in three weeks since comfortably taking care of Rincon Valley Christian in their semifinal by a score of 56-22.
The Cubs have been putting up big points on offense much of the season and have averaged more than 60 points over the last four outings.
The key, however, will be on the defensive side of the ball, where a young South Fork team has had its ups and downs, although the Cubs have shown some big improvements.
In their NCS semifinal, that defense had a big-play day, with three interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns.
If they can carry that form into Saturday’s game in Ross, they could be in for a championship day.
To do so, they’ll have to find a way to contain junior quarterback Kwentyn Wiggins.
“He’s their No. 1 threat,” Terrell said. “And we know that, and we’re gearing up our game plan to stop him.”
Wiggins, according to Terrell, is a smart player.
“He’s so smooth,” the coach said. “He doesn’t even look like he’s running fast, but he is.”
To counter that threat, the Cubs will look to their senior leaders Cody Wyatt and C.J. Van Meter, each of whom will be playing their final football game for South after stellar careers, and outstanding senior campaigns in particular.
Finesse versus physical
The matchup is an interesting one from another perspective as well, with Branson the more finesse team and South Fork more physical.
“South Fork has always been a physical team,” Terrell said. “The players always want to leave it out on the field, and whatever happens, they play 48 minutes.”
With just 12 players suiting up for the game, compared to Branson’s roster of 20, the Cubs will need every one of them to contribute if they are to pull out a win.
And that’s a part of small-town football they’ve become accustomed to.
“We’re going with what we’ve got,” the coach said. “Everybody’s a part of the plan.”
It’s also a big occasion for the school and the area, which celebrated an NCS championship in baseball in the spring.
“It’s a very big game. It’s a big game for the school,” Terrell said.
Game time is set for 1 p.m.