Fort Bragg hangs on to beat Cloverdale

By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CLOVERDALE — It was a memorable Halloween night on Friday for Fort Bragg as the Timberwolves squeaked by with a 20-14 victory in a late-season NCL I showdown against the host Eagles. The Timberwolves stiffened up for two defensive stands in their red zone in the final three minutes to thwart Cloverdale’s bid for a last-second come-from-behind win.

The win keeps Fort Bragg (7-2, 5-1) in at least a tie for the league lead with it’s final NCL I game next week, hosting Clear Lake.

Meanwhile, the loss drops Cloverdale (6-3, 4-2) out of a share of first place and leaves the Eagles scrambling to stay in second as they close out league play next week, hosting St. Helena in a game that will have NCL I title ramifications.

With Fort Bragg holding a 20-14 lead and 1:17 to play, it appeared that the Timberwolves would be able to run out the clock.

Cloverdale, however, recovered a fumble on a routine run up the middle and had the ball at Fort Bragg’s 16-yard line with 1:04 to play.

“The fumble, that’s high school football,” Timberwolves coach Roy Perkins said. “I have a bad heart, but it is OK now.”

The Fort Bragg defense was able to stiffen and defensive back William Pokorny intercepted a pass from Cloverdale quarterback Greg Scaramella in the end zone to seal the win.

“We had the ball inside their red zone twice with three minutes to go,” Cloverdale coach Rick Berry said.

In its previous possession, Cloverdale drove down to the Fort Bragg 6-yard line before being stopped on a loss of downs with 1:17 to play.

“Talk about an exciting football game,” Perkins said. “Cloverdale did a heck of a job; they never gave up.”

The first half was dominated by Fort Bragg. The Timberwolves scored on a 2-yard run by Brett Jacomella, but were mostly guided behind the passing prowess of quarterback Kaylor Sullivan (20-23 for 224 yards) and the Timberwolves took a 13-0 lead after a 36-yard scoring pass from Sullivan to Austin Trujillo.

“The way he throws and as strong as he is, that kid (Sullivan) is pretty darn good,” Berry said. “We knew that they were going to throw the ball 50 times in the game.”

Those 50 pass attempts likely would have happened, but Sullivan banged his throwing wrist on a defender’s helmet trying to run for a score and fumbled the ball away at the goal line late in the first half. Sullivan played only sparingly after that and Fort Bragg turned to the ground game.

“I thought I was in the end zone. My whole body was in, but it’s the official’s call,” Sullivan said. “That was a momentum-changing play at that point. Cloverdale came back, but we got the job done in the end and that’s what matters.”

“When Kaylor got hit on the wrist, that was a huge play,” Perkins said. “Obviously, losing our quarterback changed our offense completely. We had to go away from our normal offense and we weren’t very effective.”

Cloverdale narrowed the Fort Bragg lead to 13-6 on the first play of the second quarter with a 58-yard scoring scamper up the middle by running back Mason Meier. Fort Bragg responded with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sullivan to Lucas Triplett with 6:51 to play in the first half for a 20-6 lead at the break.

Cloverdale again narrowed the gap, this time to 20-14, after a 9-yard touchdown pass from Scaramella to Luke Bernardi and a 2-point conversation. The Eagles, however, just couldn’t punch it in when it mattered the most at the end of the game.

“It was a physical game, a hard-hitting game,” Berry said. “We had our opportunities, that’s all you can ask for.”

  • Michael Pollard

    Bernardi was everything expected. Quick, great vision, but f.b was tough in the red zone. If Sullivan was 100 percent it’s 34/14 instead of 20/14 one td was not counted on a Sullivan run. great game. Cloverdale is always well coached and fundamentally sound. I think f.b. Is no. 1 . St. Helena beat middletown tonight.