Two weeks after hitting bottom with a major upset loss to Hoopa, South Fork’s varsity football team reached the pinnacle by beating undefeated Ferndale, 6-0, last Saturday (Oct. 29) on the loser’s field.
It was reported on these pages that the Cub loss to Hoopa was “probably the biggest upset in the North Coast Section in 2005.” It wasn’t. This was.
Ferndale, 7-0 going into the game, was ranked #3 in the state in the “A” classification by the Cal-Hi Sports Service. The Wildcats had not lost a Little Four Conference game since 1998, with 41 straight league wins.
Two other Ferndale streaks came to an end: The ’Cats had won 33 straight regular season games and had 15 home wins in a row.
On Oct. 8, in the first meeting between the schools this year, Ferndale won a dominant victory over the Cubs at the South Fork homecoming, 28-2. The ’Cats out-gained their hosts by over 200 yards.
The last time South Fork beat Ferndale was in 1990, one year before Kim Jorgensen became head coach at Ferndale. Jorgensen teams had beaten SFHS 29 times in a row.
The Cubs came close to winning with their terrific teams of 2000-2002, but always seemed to pull a defeat from the jaws of victory. Their m.o. for losing might be an overthrown pass, a fumble, a big Ferndale play, or a controversial call from a ref.
After an evenly-played first quarter was drawing to a close, with a 0-0 score, Cub fans had to wonder what form the inevitable meltdown would take. To the joy of all, it never occurred, as the Cubs continued to play almost flawlessly until the end.
So, how did the bad news Bear Cubs do it?
“Our game plan was to shorten the game and move the chains,” head coach Karl Terrell said. “I told the team this week that everybody on the squad had to make plays. We put 11 helmets on 11 helmets. I’ve said all year this team has a lot of heart. They played the ultimate team game as a team.”
Philosophy aside, there were a lot of tangible achievements which went into the victory:
- Senior quarterback Chris Nevarez completed 17-of-27 passes for 207 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Contrast this with the 24 yards and 3 interceptions the Cub passing game had in the first encounter with Ferndale.
- Senior playmaker Justin Lyon had 6 receptions for 82 yards and the game’s only TD, a 15-yard pass from Nevarez. Lyon was involved in the game’s most crucial plays, including stripping the ball from a Wildcat runner as he was going into the end zone, and ripping off a 61-yard run from scrimmage as the Cubs were running out the clock at game’s end.
- Due to previous injuries, many players had to play new positions. Nobody stood out more than junior Zach Harrison, who played offense extensively for the first time. As a receiver, Harrison had 6 catches for 82 yards, all of his receptions for first downs.
- The Cub offensive and defensive lines, revamped due to injuries, gave Nevarez time to pass while stuffing the notorious Ferndale running game. James “Boo” McDonald, the only sophomore on the SFHS squad, was matched with Ferndale’s 261-pound lineman John Thurston and “Boo” dominated. Derek Lockhart (lt), Ryan Manfredonia (c), Auzlo Gibb (rg) and Sam Portillo (rt), were the other starters. Lockhart and Gibb also played big on defense.
- With leading Cub rushers Kyle Terrell and Scotty Arreguin unavailable – Terrell was out with a leg injury and Arreguin toughed it out playing defense only – junior Casey Bruckenstein carried the ball 14 times, played great defense, and took over Terrell’s punting and punt return duties.
Cubs score in 4th qtr.
In the first quarter, South Fork got its initial possession after a Wildcat punt pinned the Cubs on their 3-yard line. Nevarez threw a five-yard pass to tight end Craig Eichin, then followed with a 21-yard strike to Bruckenstein. The latter’s eventual 38-yard punt restored field position for SFHS.
When ’Cat qb Tommy Jorgensen lost a fumble on the ensuing first play from scrimmage, South Fork had its first opportunity. Lyon made a great catch on a 13-yard pass from Nevarez, then Bruckenstein had a 12-yard run, both for first downs.
Two sacks of Nevarez ended that drive at the Ferndale 20, but Cub fans started to suspect that something was different on this day, as the first quarter ended. Ferndale, thus far, was having a tough time getting any more than six yards from scrimmage, through the run or pass.
The Cubs opened the second quarter with a drive from their own 35 to the Ferndale 26, with Nevarez throwing four completions, three for first downs (all 12 completions in the game to Lyon and Harrison were for first downs).
That drive ended with a lost Cub fumble. On Ferndale’s next series, midway through the second quarter, Cub fans began to fear the worst. An official South Fork has had problems with in the past made a rare call of an “illegal block” on the defense, to give the ’Cats a first down at the Cub 48. Two plays later a personal foul was called on South Fork. It started to feel like “déjà vu all over again (Yogi Berra).”
But… “Boo” McDonald and Casey Bruckenstein made great defensive plays in succession, and two Jorgensen incompletions later Ferndale gave SFHS the ball. The Cubs nicely ran out the clock and the half ended scoreless.
The third quarter was notable for one play, which maybe was an indication that the Muses were on South Fork’s side. With four minutes remaining, ’Cat tailback Casey Sarvinski broke through the line with a 53-yard run, Ferndale’s only big play until that moment.
Sarvinski, Ferndale’s best player, had entered the game despite an injury because of the unexpected competitiveness of the game. As he was about to score a TD, Lyon stripped him of the ball and the Cubs recovered the ball in the end zone. Cub ball at their own 20.
This play fired up the South Fork players and their fans. With that exuberance they did the unexpected: they drove 80 yards in 13 plays for the game’s only touchdown.
Nevarez went 6-for-8 on the drive, with three completions each to Lyon and Harrison. Both receivers made fine catches during the sequence, all the receptions being between 10-16 yards. On 2nd-and-12 from the Ferndale 15, Lyon made a leaping grab of a Nevarez pass for six points. The PAT was no good, but with nine minutes remaining SFHS was beating Ferndale!
Ferndale’s last possession, with five minutes remaining in the game, created nervous time for both sides. The ’Cats moved from their own 26 to the South Fork 20. The drive began slowly, with McDonald and Auzlo Gibb sacking Jorgensen on first down.
However, on 3rd-and-21 from the Ferndale 15, the ’Cats second big play occurred: a 46-yard pass from Jorgensen to Alex Renner. Renner appeared to have a free sideline in which to run, but Cub defensive back Alex Finn, from a prone position, managed to trip Renner to the ground.
Another omen that this was South Fork’s day. If history was to repeat itself, Renner would have scored. However, that was Ferndale’s last hurrah. Sarvinski was stuffed on a crucial 4th-and-3 from the Cub 20 and SFHS got the ball for the last time. Lyon’s 61-yard run from scrimmage assured the victory as time ran out.
The Cubs play Hoopa in Miranda this Friday night, November 4, with a kickoff at 6 p.m. (no jayvee game). The Cubs fell from their #1 ranking among Class B NCS teams with their previous loss to Hoopa and are now ranked third behind Pt. Arena and St. Elizabeth’s. A #2 seed would give SFHS a playoff game at home.
Cub Notes: Bret Wilsey’s jayvee team was out-manned by Ferndale, 33-0. Ferndale was as gracious in defeat as it is in victory. The ’Cats lead the league in good sportsmanship. Hoopa lost to St. Bernard’s last weekend, with both schools competing with South Fork for a “B” playoff spot. SFHS concludes the regular season with a Nov. 12 game at St. Bernard’s.