Last year, opponents knew they had to focus on Fort Bragg’s air attack. But with their record-setting quarterback, Kaylor Sullivan, lost to graduation, the Timberwolves needed a more balanced game plan.
They certainly found it.
Fort Bragg went undefeated in the North Central League I this year (8-0) using a three-pronged attack: quarterback Lucas Triplett, fast and sturdy running back Trystin Strickland and Triplett as a run threat.
Teams now need to divide their defensive attention against that trident.
That challenge falls to Kelseyville on Friday night in Fort Bragg, in a semifinal game of the NCS Division 5 playoffs. The winner moves to the division championship a week later.
Kelseyville, 5-3 in the NCL I and 9-3 overall, was Fort Bragg’s toughest competition this season, other than the Timberwolves’ only loss of the season, on opening night to Division 3 Eureka.
In the teams’ Nov. 4 game, Fort Bragg pulled out a 21-20 victory after going into the fourth quarter down 20-14.
“We’ve got to keep guys in the box to stop 31 (Strickland),” Knights coach Erick Larsen said. “He’s an awesome running back. Then we have to have guys in coverage to defend the pass. They have a good attack.
“Then, containing Triplett is another piece of the equation.”
Triplett, who was Sullivan’s primary receiver last season, took over as Timberwolves quarterback this year — and picked up right where Sullivan left off.
The senior is second on the team in rushing, having scored 10 touchdowns on the ground to add to his 19 in the air. He has completed 156 of 261 passes for 2,290 yards, giving him a 208-yard per-game average in the air. Add that to his 84 yards per game on the ground and one might think opponents could just focus on him.
But then there’s Strickland, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound running back. He averages 8 yards a carry for the Timberwolves, and he’s second in the team in receiving behind Shane Giaccani.
“When you have somebody like that, you can’t get your arms around him,” Fort Bragg coach Roy Perkins said. “So all the tackling technique goes out the window.”
Larsen agrees about Strickland.
“Boy, I don’t know (how you stop him),” he said. “We played them close and I think he still had 160 yards.” Actually, he had 193 on 24 carries.
“And he’s fast. He only got us on only one long run, but one another one, he shot out like a bullet out of a gun,” Larsen said. “I’m pretty sure he drinks diesel.”
Kelseyville’s quarterback Logan Barrick throws far less often than Triplett, but when he connects, it’s for good yardage, averaging almost 15 yards per completion.
The Knights are led by running back Dwayne Yiggins, who averages 117 yards a game on the ground.
“He’s a great compliment with Pat Mick and Bryan Carrillo,” Larsen said. “They can’t just load everyone up on (Yiggins). They have to play us straight up too.”
Larsen is confident in his team’s run game: “It got us where we’re at right now, so we don’t want to be too crazy adding things at this point.”