Head coach Matt Tomlin has his players off to a flying start with a pair of dominating victories, while a young Arcata team has suffered back-to-back losses to begin its campaign.
Despite that. however, Tomlin isn’t taking anything for granted and is fully expecting the Tigers to challenge his team.
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“I always expect a tough battle from coach (Jamal) Jones’ teams,” Tomlin said. “Coach Jones is a competitive guy, and his staff and their kids follow that lead.”
The Tigers are coming off a tough 45-12 loss at home to Del Norte a week ago, but Jones says his players have had a very productive week of practice and are eager for the challenge.
“They’re locked in,” Jones said of his players. “They’re trying to get better. It was a great week of practice.”
The Tigers’ problems a week ago were twofold — drives breaking down in the red zone, and their defense getting worn down by a physically dominating Del Norte line.
Redwood News Athlete of the Week
St. Bernard’s, led by senior Connor Chase, this week’s Redwood News Athlete of the Week, will pose another tough challenge in the trenches for the young Tigers.
The Crusaders have outscored their first two opponents by a score of 81-21, setting the tone early in both games, including a 41-7 win over McKinleyville a week ago.
A potent running attack (293.5 yards a game) is led by Talimaivao Fonti and quarterback Will Omey, who already has 300 yards rushing to go with four TDs.
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Through the air, Omey has been just as effective, completing 19-of-36 for 305 yards and four TDs (to just one interception).
It helps that he has some big-play weapons to throw to, but Omey, who didn’t win the starting QB job until the preseason, has been very impressive.
“He’s an explosive player,” Tomlin said of the junior signal caller. “And he trains really hard in the offseason in the weight room, and it really shows. He makes explosive plays.”
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The Crusaders do have one injury concern ahead of Friday’s game, with lineman Lucindo Gable out after rolling his ankle.
Isaac Beach will fill in on the O-line, while Tomlin will turn to 14-year-old freshman Jacob Smallwood to start at linebacker.
“We think he’s a pretty special player,” Tomlin said of Smallwood.
Impressive line play
The Tigers, meanwhile, are still looking for their first win, although their head coach likes a lot of what he’s seen so far, including in last week’s loss.
“I thought we did some good things, and I thought we did some not so good things,” he said. “But I thought it was a learning experience.”
In particular, the Tigers were able to move the ball at times against a physically dominant Del Norte team, with junior running back Kien Mazzotti leading the way.
Along the line, Max Rice, Justin Grandfield, Mateo Vincent and Hyrum Dieker have all impressed.
With no JV game this week, Jones will be able to move some of the younger players up to the varsity squad, giving him more depth for the game.
“We want to win. That’s what we’re looking for,” the head coach said. “We’ve gotta do whatever we got to do to win a football game. We’ve got to be stout we’ve got to be solid. You’ve got to your job.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.