By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Facing a powerful Ferndale team that rarely threw the ball, St. Vincent de Paul lost 53-14 in Saturday afternoon’s North Coast Section Division 5 football championship at Humboldt State University.
The Wildcats (12-1) passed the ball just four times all game, piling up 559 yards on the ground on 54 carries. Justin Lang ran for three scores, while Kyle Chambers and Jacoby Hughes had two touchdowns each.
“They were just bigger, faster and stronger,” St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway said.
Despite the lopsided final score, Galloway said the Mustangs (10-3) started strong. Down 14-7 after Derek Murphy caught a 15-yard TD pass from Mitch Sheppard late in the first quarter, St. Vincent drove to Ferndale’s 2-yard line early in the second quarter. An illegal procedure call pushed the Mustangs back, though, forcing Sheppard to try a field goal, which he missed.
Following the missed field goal, the Wildcats took the ball 80 yards on four plays. A 68-yard run by Ferndale’s Hughes set up Chambers’ 1-yard plunge for a 21-7 lead.
“We lost our fire after that,” Galloway said, calling the 68-yard run “one of the big plays of the game.”
Sheppard threw for both the Mustangs’ touchdowns, the other being a 14-yard pass to Zach Smith with the game well in hand for Ferndale. The senior ends high school having thrown for a touchdown in every game in which he appeared under center. He topped 2,000 yards as a junior and senior.
Saturday’s championship was the first meeting between the two teams since the 1993 NCS Class B final, when St. Vincent upset the top-ranked team in the state, 19-12.
Galloway said he was pleased with the way his Mustangs rebounded to win seven straight and make it to the title game after starting the season 3-2.
“The unfortunate thing is when you get to this level, you either win a championship or you end the season on a loss,” he said.