The Times-Standard 

Cats clinch NCS title

Sunday, December 08, 2002 It took an early touchdown by Justin-Siena to wake up the Wildcats, who fell behind after five minutes but came back to score the tying touchdown 44 seconds later and went on to score on their next two possessions.

"I can't say the kids were mad, but they didn't like being behind," said Kim Jorgensen, the Ferndale coach. "The fact we were able to come back was a big confidence boost for us. But these kids have been like that all season -- they've come back when they've had to."

That, of course, hasn't been too often as the Wildcats wound up one of the school's most successful seasons.

Ferndale played an almost flawless game, gaining a sense of payback after a championship loss to the Braves in the NCS Class A final two years ago.

The quick early-game exchange -- Justin-Siena scored with 7:09 left and Ferndale with 6:25 left -- was a big boost for the Wildcats.

A 24-yard Justin-Siena pass play from Tyler Streeblow to Athan Putnam put the Braves in front, but Ferndale scored on its third play from scrimmage when Brad Killingsworth, operating at wingback, broke off a 58-yard run around the left side.

The Wildcats' defense then made the first of several big plays, forcing a fumble on a fourth-down punt try, getting the ball at the Ferndale 44.

Brad Killingsworth had a run of 10 yards, Toste a run of 15 and Brad Killingsworth a run of 10, pushing the ball to the 22. Toste then picked up 14 yards on two runs and Killingsworth had a run of 11, with Holiday scoring on a 2-yard run with seven seconds left in the quarter.

The lead went to 20-6 with 9:38 left in the half when Ferndale, after holding the Braves to 14 yards, took over at the 40.

A workhorse all season, Toste then powered through the right side of the line and raced away from at least a half-dozen Justin-Siena defenders. The two-point conversion by Brandon Holliday was good.

When Justin-Siena scored, said Jorgensen, "the (Ferndale) players realized they had to shore up a few things."

"It didn't take them long to realize what was going wrong," said Jorgensen, who claimed his sixth NCS coaching title at Ferndale.

"The first touchdown was a good one, but the next two were decisive. (Justin-Siena) threw the ball well, but our defense made the plays. We moved the ball very well."

Toste and Brad Killingsworth, both seniors, rushed for 182 and 100 yards, respectively.

"I'm very proud of this group of players," said Jorgensen. "They have shown a tremendous amount of responsibility. They've come to practice on time and they've been ready to go. That set the tone for the entire team."

Justin-Siena, which came into the game with a 7-5 record and a five-game winning streak, had a two-to-one manpower advantage over the Wildcats, whose roster has been significantly smaller than most of its opponents.

But Ferndale pushed back, its offensive line opening holes and its defense making critical stops.

Pass plays from Tyler Streeblow to Putnam and Ryan Sholl kept alive the first drive for Justin-Siena, and a fourth-and-seven pass play of 27 yards from Streeblow to Putnam accounted for the team's first score. The touchdown culminated a nine play, 69-yard drive and gave the Braves the early psychological advantage.

Scoring first, Justin-Siena coach Rich Cotruvo had said earlier, was critical to his team's success. That, and minimizing its mistakes. However, Justin-Siena was penalized for 110 yards (to 30 for Ferndale) and quarterback Streeblow completed only 15 of 35 passes.

The early advantage didn't hold up and the Braves lost several good opportunities after that.

They had the ball three more times in the first half, failing once on a fourth-and-seven situation early in the second quarter, losing the ball on a fumble inside the Ferndale 10, and having time run out on them late in the half.

Defensive tackle Aaron Paine was one of several first-half defensive standouts for Ferndale, leading the rush of the quarterback and recovering a fumble. But, Toste, again, was a big factor as well.

Paine also contributed in the third quarter, recovering a fumble at the Wildcats' 15, stopping what was Justin-Siena's only serious second half drive.,

Brad Killingsworth knocked down a pass to end a Justin-Siena drive early in the fourth quarter, with Ferndale taking over at its own 37.

Killingsworth picked up a yard off tackle and then Toste broke through the defense again, evading several tacklers and outrunning two others into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 26-6 lead with 7:24 left in the game. The two point conversion by Holliday was good.

After that, Justin-Siena, faced with an almost hopeless comeback, never threatened.

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   by Mike Marrow