NCS football roundup: Middletown, St. Helena, Willits fall in semifinals
Saturday was a tough day for North Central League I football programs. In three semifinals on the road in the North Coast Section playoffs, NCL I teams Middletown (Division 6), St. Helena (Division 7), and Willits (Division 7) all lost in lopsided fashion.
“It wasn’t a good day for our league,” Middletown coach Bill Foltmer said.
No. 3 Middletown (8-3) went down versus No. 2 St. Bernard’s (9-3) of Eureka, 35-6. The Mustangs’ normally potent running game racked up yardage but was ineffective in the red zone. Middletown had several penalties and two turnovers (including a pick-six by the Crusaders) that ended drives without points deep in St. Bernard’s territory.
“We were hurt by costly penalties and turnovers,” Foltmer said. “We weren’t able to sustain our drives.”
Defensively, the Mustangs had trouble slowing down the Crusaders’ multi-faceted quarterback Will Omey (19 carries for 124 yards and 2 TDs; 14 of 23 passing for 241 yards and 2 TDs).
“St. Bernard’s quarterback was a dual threat, he could run and pass. We had trouble containing Omey,” Foltmer said. “We tried to blitz with six (players) but we just weren’t getting there in time.”
The Crusaders utilized their spread offense to cash in on big passing plays to keep the Mustangs’ defense off-balance.
“They (Crusaders) were successful passing. They spread the field and try to out-athlete you,” Foltmer said. “They were able to execute their game plan and we weren’t able to execute ours. We got outplayed today. St. Bernard’s was well-prepared for us.”
St. Bernard’s led 21-0 at halftime and 35-0 early in the fourth quarter. Middletown’s Dillon Tingle scored on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter, allowing the Mustangs to avoid being shut out.
“Credit has to go to St. Bernard’s. They made the plays on defense and didn’t allow any big plays,” Foltmer said. “We aren’t the type of team that can come back from a large deficit and play catch-up.”
Middletown’s Nico Barrio rushed 28 times for 172 yards and had a 34-yard pass reception.
Even though the Mustangs were not able to repeat as NCS champions (Middletown won Division 5 in 2018), Foltmer said it was a successful season.
“It was a great season for us. We won our league and we went as far as we could,” Foltmer said. “We just got beat by a better team.”
SALESIAN 49, ST. HELENA 14
In a Division 7 game, the No. 4 Saints (9-3) lost to the physically superior No. 1 Pride (10-2) of Richmond to end St. Helena’s season.
“Salesian was too big and strong. They had fast kids as well. They just came downhill at us,” St. Helena coach Brandon Farrell said. “We had trouble playing in catch-up mode.”
St. Helena took the lead 8-0 in the first quarter after Cody DiTomaso scored on a 25-yard scamper and the Saints converted on the 2-point conversion. However, Salesian scored 22 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead 22-8 at halftime.
“We had a couple of fourth-down plays in the second quarter that we didn’t convert on (at midfield and inside the Salesian 25-yard line),” Farrell said. “That changed the momentum of the game.”
DiTomaso scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter but St. Helena was outscored 13-6 in the third quarter and 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy with where we are at with our program. We had a great year overall. Salesian was the better team today,” Farrell said. “We will call it a season and start planning for next year.”
FERNDALE 35, WILLITS 7
The No. 3 Wolverines (8-4) were overmatched by the host No. 2 Wildcats (10-2) in a Division 7 semifinal.
“We played well in spurts,” Willits coach Brandon Norbury said. “We were in the red zone three or four times but we had some momentum changers (against the Wolverines) that really turned the game. Penalties killed us.”
Ferndale ran the ball effectively on the Willits defense, which for the season has leaned on run-stopping as a strength.
Offensively, Willits sputtered in large part by surrendering four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble).
“We just had an off-game today. Ferndale was definitely the better team; there is no other way to put it,” Norbury said. “I couldn’t ask for a better season or for better kids. They played their hearts out.”