Every sturdy defense needs a “lockdown” cornerback who can take away an offense’s best receiver. For Fort Bragg, Lucas Triplett is that cornerback and then some.
Triplett, a junior, exhibited his prowess in pass coverage weekly in the NCL I with his aggressive, physical play, earning him recognition as the 2015-16 All-Empire small schools football defensive player of the year. Triplett had eight interceptions for the season, even though opponents rarely tested him. He was a critical cog in Fort Bragg’s 11-1 season and NCL I title.
“We had a game plan when we played Fort Bragg that we were not going to throw the ball on Triplett’s side of the field,” Middletown coach Bill Foltmer said. “He is a good-sized kid with good speed and he’s athletic. He is going to come away with a 50-50 ball more times than not.”
In addition to his body of work on defense, Triplett — who’s 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds — was a stalwart on offense as a receiver (for the season, 100 receptions, 19 touchdowns and 1,402 yards, a 117-yard per-game average). He was far and away the favorite target for Timberwolves quarterback Kaylor Sullivan, the All-Empire small schools offensive player of the year.
“Lucas is a gifted athlete, he can do it all,” Sullivan said. “The ball is attracted to him.”
While it’s debatable whether Triplett’s impact was greater on offense or defense, and Triplett said he thinks it was equal, numerous opposing NCL I coaches said there was no doubt that Triplett should be the defensive POY.
“Triplett was as much a part of Fort Bragg’s offense as Sullivan but on defense his pass coverage, footwork ability — especially in man-to-man — was just really impressive,” Cloverdale coach Chad Prieskorn said. “I thought we had the best receiver in the league in Marcus Poe, but Triplett made him an average player at best and minimized Poe’s contribution.”
Triplett said of neutralizing Poe: “I knocked him down early on and stripped him for a fumble in the first quarter. I knew if I could get in his head early I could throw him off his game.”
In fact, the Cloverdale game was a showcase of Triplett’s skill and tenacity on defense. The Timberwolves won 41-0, and Triplett had a remarkable three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“It was one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen from a player on a football field on either side of the ball,” Fort Bragg coach Roy Perkins said. “Lucas is an instinctive football player. … He is an acrobatic, phenomenal athlete.”
Triplett said he mixes up his pass coverage between jamming receivers at the line and playing off them, depending on the game situation and play call. Triplett stressed that one of his stylistic signatures on defense is executing the big tackle.
“I love making the big hit, it is fun and it gets your team pumped up,” Triplett said.
On the flip side, Triplett said he makes a point of showing toughness when he is tackled by getting up as quick as possible.
“Lucas is a tough, hard-nosed, physically gifted kid,” Perkins said. “He is a very proud kid.”
ALL-EMPIRE SMALL-SCHOOLS DEFENSE:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Lucas Triplett, Jr., Fort Bragg
DL: Triston Cooper, Sr., Fort Bragg
DL: Sage Randall-Darter, Sr., St. Helena
DL: Travis Kitowski, Sr., Cloverdale
DL: Jasper Estes, Sr., Fort Bragg
DL: Stephen Amos, Sr., Middletown
LB: Mason Meier, Sr., Cloverdale
LB: Brett Jacomella, Sr., Fort Bragg
LB: Mark Martin, Sr., St. Helena
LB: Manny Sanches, Sr., Kelseyville
DB: Payton Rockwood, Sr., St. Helena
DB: Gabe Guzman, Jr., Middletown
DB: Lane Wright, Sr., Willits
DB: Asa Peters, Sr., Kelseyville
DL: Will Lemons, Sr., Anderson Valley
DL: Ty Sutton, Sr., Fort Bragg
DL: Tyler Hawkins, Soph., RV Christian
DL: Cooper Johnson, Sr., Potter Valley
DL: Matt Wiloth, Sr., Middletown
LB: Austin Cia, Sr., St. Helena
LB: Wyatt Jones, Sr., Middletown
LB: Robert Calderon, Sr., Lower Lake
LB: Willie Maples, Soph., RV Christian
DB: Tyler Dore, Sr., Clear Lake
DB: Erin Perez, Sr., Anderson Valley
DB: Dre Santos, Jr., Upper Lake
DB: Michael Davis, Jr., St. Vincent
COACH OF THE YEAR
Roy Perkins, Fort Bragg