Longtime Fort Bragg coach Roy Perkins missing the football field
Chopping down large trees and coaching football might not seem to have much in common, but for Fort Bragg High School’s Roy Perkins, the parallels are real.
“I was born and raised on Main Street in Fort Bragg. I have logging history in my family,” Perkins said of his past profession, which led to several injuries. “I might be an adrenaline junkie. Being a log-cutter is physically dangerous and very exciting.”
The physicality, toughness and dedication Perkins needed in the forest dodging falling timber has been fused into Fort Bragg’s football program.
“My coaching philosophy has always been to create the best possible experience for the kids. I am coaching them physically, academically and emotionally,” Perkins said. “High school football is the purest sporting event that we have in our country.”
Perkins, 65, knows his hometown like few others. He worked for local lumber mills as a timber faller for 27 years and has been a part of the Timberwolves’ gridiron program for a total of 30 years. Working in the Mendocino County forests for the first part of the day allowed Perkins to take a job as Fort Bragg’s junior varsity head coach in the afternoons. He started coaching in 1981 and has never looked back.
“I have actually been a JV or varsity head coach in five different decades. I take some pride in that. Not a lot of guys can say that,” said Perkins, who has coached for 39 years, not all in Fort Bragg. “I became a football coach because I saw some things that I didn’t like, so instead of complaining about it I decided to get involved.”
For 22 years, Perkins coached the JV squad and assisted with the varsity program under the mentorship of storied Fort Bragg coach Jack Moyer. The varsity team won North Coast Section championships from 1993-96 and in 1999.
Since the 2012 season, the Timberwolves under Perkins have a stellar 56-34 overall record and a 40-17 mark in the North Coast League I. Fort Bragg won 21 consecutive games against league opponents between 2014 and 2016. The Timberwolves won the league title four of those eight seasons (2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016) and the 2016 team lost in the NCS Division V playoffs 49-35 after a controversial decision by the NCS to move the game from Fort Bragg to a field close to opponent Alhambra in Martinez. The Fort Bragg field was deemed too muddy by section officials, leading to a long road journey for the Timberwolves.
“I feel that our 2016 team should have been a section championship team if we truly played at a neutral site.” Perkins said. “I would have been OK playing in Santa Rosa, but the NCS wouldn’t consider it. We had to play on turf and that affected us. Alhambra was a very fast team.”
Even without the NCS title, Perkins said the goal every season is to win the league championship.
“I could care less about the playoffs. My only focus is on winning league championships,” Perkins said. “My philosophy is that my kids and I are in control of the 10 league games. Whatever happens after that is up to non-football experts at the NCS office.”
Perkins, who was 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds in high school, played football, baseball, and basketball at Fort Bragg High and graduated in 1973. He played football and baseball at Butte Community College and went on to earn a BA in History from Chico State in 1981.
In 2002, Perkins earned his teaching credential and had to leave Fort Bragg to land a teaching job. For the next decade, he taught and coached in several communities north of Sacramento before returning to his hometown in 2012. He is currently a history teacher at Fort Bragg Middle School but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is teaching remotely in the subjects of English, math, history and science.
“Teachers who are coaches know it is about education first, then athletics. We are trying to develop successful adults,” Perkins said. “It has to be about the education experience first.”
When it comes to football, Perkins said he is not tied to any offensive or defensive game plan but rather adapts his strategy around the players he has and their skill sets. Over the years, the Timberwolves have had wildly different offensive attacks, including well-known approaches like the veer, air raid and spread zone-read.
“I have to adjust things year-to-year based on the players we have. You try and design something to get your best players in space,” Perkins said. “The key to coaching is to see when things aren’t correct and make changes in the middle of the season or game. Halftime adjustments are critical.”
Perkins ― who coached the Fort Bragg varsity baseball team for three seasons from 2016 to 2018 (56-20 overall record, 34-8 in league) before deciding to focus only on football ― said Fort Bragg stresses conditioning and has an advantage due to the cool weather in August and September.