Momentum in football is a little different than in other sports, but the Fort Bragg Timberwolves hope they can capitalize on the energy from two hard-fought victories to propel them over top-seeded Marin Catholic Saturday in an NCS quarterfinal game.
Fort Bragg, 11-0 overall, played in a must-win game against Cloverdale and then faced rival St. Helena twice within two weeks, first for the North Central League I title and then in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs.
In that same time frame, Marin Catholic, 9-1, has played just two games, alternating with bye weeks. They really haven’t been tested since their first game, their only loss, in August.
The Timberwolves hope they’ve been forged by the intensity of those games and that Marin Catholic might be feeling rusty from lack of competition.
“That might be the one advantage we have right now,” said Fort Bragg coach Roy Perkins. “We’ve been playing, the last three weeks, what amount to playoff games.
“Whether or not they’re going to be as sharp as normal, I don’t know. But we’re used to the playoff atmosphere.”
Wildcats coach Mazi Moayed knows his team hasn’t been battled-tested in some time.
“In 27 days, we will have played one football game. On the 28th, we’ll play our second,” he said, acknowledging that sometimes that inactivity can lead to sluggishness.
“But no one’s looking past them, for sure,” he said of Fort Bragg.
Both teams have dominant quarterbacks, although the Timberwolves rely on Kaylor Sullivan more than the Wildcats do Darius-James Peterson.
Sullivan leads the state in passing with 4,016 total yards and has thrown 49 touchdown passes in 11 games. He averages 365 passing yards a game.
Peterson has thrown for 1,601 total yards and 15 TDs but also leads his team in rushing, with 754 yards on 81 carries, a 9.3-yard average, and 15 TDs on the ground.
Both coaches praised the other team’s quarterback.
“Their kid is much more mobile running the ball,” Perkins said of Peterson. “I don’t know that he has the passing skills Kaylor does. … But he is very elusive. He’ll be a handful. It will be a challenge to contain him.”
And Moayed knows what he’s facing with Sullivan.
“He spreads the ball out to different receivers. He’s got an extremely strong arm. He’s obviously very consistent,” he said. “He knows what he wants to do with the ball. He makes great decisions. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
It’s not like the Wildcats can just double-cover one or even two Fort Bragg receivers — Sullivan has connected with 11 receivers for touchdowns this year.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback and get some hits on him,” Moayed said. “That’s easier said than done. He gets rid of the ball pretty fast.”
The Timberwolves will also have to contend with running back Nick Gernhard and two-time All-State guard-center Clayton Demski, who is listed as 6-foot-3, 304 pounds.
Fort Bragg, as the No. 8 seed, is the underdog — a role the Timberwolves haven’t been in all season. But Perkins said that relieves some of the pressure of having to face the top-seeded team, one that was in the larger Division 3 last year and lost in the state championship game. The Wildcats — along with Cardinal Newman — petitioned to play down in Division 4 this year with mostly smaller schools.