By Ray Hamill — The Wildcats are back where they belong.
On Saturday night they’ll compete for a North Coast Section championship for the first time in seven years, making Ferndale, a name synonymous with NCS football, a relevant section power once again.
Ferndale is not just the most successful of all nine H-DNL football programs. The school’s 13 championships are just one less than the rest of the league combined.
The Cats are also the second most successful football program in the entire NCS (out of 155 schools), trailing only nationally-recognized De La Salle, which has won a section championship a remarkable 33 times.
The Cats, for the record, have one more NCS title than Cardinal Newman and two more than Marin Catholic.
That’s impressive territory for the small school with the proud tradition.
But while it might seem appropriate to see this traditional powerhouse back battling for an NCS championship, tradition alone isn’t what got them there.
This year’s players have earned everything they have achieved, and they’ve done so the old fashioned way, epitomizing old-school Ferndale football.
They play tough, smart, physical football, wearing down opponents with their running game and relentless defense, particularly in the trenches, and they’ve worked hard to do so.
Similar to Del Norte and St. Bernard’s, the other two H-DNL teams playing for an NCS title this weekend, the Wildcats play as a cohesive unit, performing at a level greater than the sum of their parts.
And similar to Del Norte and St. Bernard’s, they have achieved this in part thanks to a very good coaching staff.
Head coach Clint McClurg and his assistants are building something special again at Ferndale.
They’re building a culture of accountability and one of old-fashioned Ferndale football, and that has them on the cusp of a 14th NCS championship.
Standing in their way is an old nemesis, Salesian, the No. 1 seed in Division 7 which finished runners-up to Middletown a year ago.
The Cats are seeded No. 2 and will go into the big showdown with plenty of confidence and momentum, having won 10 of their last 11 games.
They’re back where they belong.