Football

Hoopa out to upset the odds at St. Bernard’s

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – St. Bernard’s Justin Hagler is one of several offensive weapons the Crusaders have at their disposal, with 157 yards total offense in three games.

By Ray Hamill — After back-to-back blowouts over Little 4 opposition for the Crusaders, few people will be giving Hoopa Valley much chance of upsetting the odds at St. Bernard’s this Saturday.

The Crusaders have been impressive thus far, with a well balanced squad outscoring their first three opponents by a combined score of 128-35.

But there is one big difference that the Warriors bring to the game — figuratively and literally — that the Crusaders’ other opponents did not.

“Unlike the other teams we’ve played, Hoopa has the size to compete with us,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said.

438A6629Five takeaways from week three in prep football – Eureka, Del Norte, St. Bernard’s and Fortuna all impress once again …

The physical Warriors (1-1) are coming off a 24-7 win at home to Etna, turning in a far improved performance from their season opener the week before.

“I thought they looked a lot better in their second game,” said Tomlin, whose players won’t be taking anything for granted in Saturday’s game. “They really ran their offense better.”

Challenges on both sides of the ball

The Crusaders (3-0) will present the visitors with plenty of challenges themselves, on both sides of the ball.

With a pair of dominating lines, anchored by senior team MVP Connor Chase, St. Bernard’s features several linemen who have come together as effectively as the coaching staff could have hoped for this soon.

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The Crusaders have not lost to a Little 4 opponent in 26 games.

The Crusaders may have lost a lot of talent from a North Coast Section contending team in 2017, but you wouldn’t know it from their early performances.

Quarterback Will Omey is also enjoying a stellar season thus far, passing or running for 13 of the Crusaders’ 19 TDs.

Against Arcata a week ago, Omey ran for touchdowns on the team’s opening three possessions, giving him seven rushing scores on the season.

He also leads the team with 466 yards rushing yards, an average of more than 150 a game.

The bruising Talimaivao Fonoti has also been a handful for opposing defenses grinding out the tough yards for the Crusaders, and opening up the game for receivers Lane Thrap, Luke Fairfield, Sebastian Taylor and Justin Hagler, who collectively provide Omey with plenty of options.

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The Warriors defeated Etna last week.

And the big-play making ability of these players hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I think the explosive plays offensively,” Tomlin said, when asked what has impressed him most about his team this season. “I didn’t know if we had that capability. But we’ve definitely been prone to scoring long touchdowns. And defensively, we’ve played pretty physical.”

The passing game, however, is something the Crusaders have been working on improving.

“We’ve been running the ball outstanding, but we’ve got to get better throwing the ball,” the coach added.

Dominating run against L4 teams

Likewise, Hoopa has impressed running the ball, taking advantage of a physical line and a physical running back.

Senior Kimit Peters has carried much of the load in the backfield behind a strong offensive line.

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Will Omey has already rushed for seven touchdowns this season.

And after last week’s win over Etna, head coach William Simms could clearly see the improvement from his players from week one to week two.

“We did some of the little things correctly, like tackling, blocking assignments, and stuff like that,” Simms said. “Doing a lot of the little wrong results in a loss, doing them right is a win.”

The Warriors will have to do a lot of the little things just right to have any chance of knocking off the dominating Crusaders, who have not lost to Little 4 opposition since 2013, a span of 26 straight games.

438A6617 2Crusaders roll over injury-plagued Tigers at the Redwood Bowl – Will Omey and the Crusaders posted their third straight big win …

And they present numerous challenges to the underdog Warriors.

“St. Bernard’s is going to onside kick us all the time, and we’ve got to be ready for that,” Simms said. “We’ve got to pick up the blitz on offense. They blitz a lot, they’re very aggressive. And we have to play sound defense.”

Omey presents a particular challenge.

“They’ve got a quarterback who can run the ball pretty well, and he can throw,” the Hoopa coach said.

Saturday’s game is set for 1 p.m. at Crusader Field.

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