The passing attack was a priority for the Crusaders at practice all week, and it showed on Saturday.
Hosting Hoopa Valley at Crusaders Field, St. Bernard’s had three quarterbacks combine to pass for eight touchdowns, as the home team rolled to a 67-28 win.
“We wanted to focus on the passing game, and we were outstanding today,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “(QB) Will Omey was real accurate, and our receivers made some really big plays today. And to have three different quarterbacks throw touchdowns shows how deep we are.”
Omey played the first half, finding the end zone five times, before giving way to Logan Simoni, who continued his impressive start to the season with a pair of TD passes.
But it was the performance of the third quarterback that was perhaps most noteworthy, with Bode Joyner making his season debut after suffering a broken wrist playing baseball during the summer.
“He’s back,” Tomlin said of the sophomore, who was the frontrunner to start at QB before the injury. “But we’re going to be real careful with him right now. There’s a very limited amount of the playbook I want to use with him. But he threw very well, probably over 100 yards.”
Joyner threw for one TD in his return, and having him back will further boost a 4-0 team that has been dominating opponents through the opening four weeks.
“He looked sharp today,” Tomlin said.
Combined, the three SB quarterbacks completed 31-of-39 passes for 488 yards.
Over the past three weeks, the Crusaders have now outscored three of the Little 4 teams by a combined 155-49, with 35 of their opponents’ points coming against back-ups.
On Saturday, they led 53-8 at the interval.
Disappointing start for Hoopa
For Hoopa Valley, it was a disappointing performance, especially in the first half when the Warriors had their opportunities but failed to capitalize.
The loss comes one week after an encouraging first win over Etna, and drops the Warriors to 1-2 on the season.
“We had a pretty rough first half,” Hoopa head coach Williams Simms said. “I felt like in the second half we played much better.”
Junior receiver Carlos Aguilar had another big game, scoring three of the Warriors’ four TDs on receptions, giving him five in the past two weeks.
“Carlos Aguilar had a monster of a game, like I expected,” Simms said.
Senior Willie Reynolds added the team’s fourth TD on a kick return.
“And Willie Reynolds had a monster of a game, and Jasper Hostler had a monster of a game,” the head coach added.
Fundamental flaws, however, cost the Warriors early, and they could not afford to make those type of mistakes against a team as dynamic as the Crusaders.
“It came down to us missing little assignments, and honestly, we’re much better than the first half portrayed,” Simms said.
Big-play receiving quartet
It also came down to the numerous weapons on offense St. Bernard’s has, with several stepping up once again.
The receiving quartet of Lane Thrap, Luke Fairfield, Sebastian Taylor and Justin Hagler have started the season on fire, and appear to be getting better each week.
None of their opponents so far have been able to contain them.
“All of our receivers had big games,” Tomlin said.
Thrap, Fairfield and Taylor each had two touchdowns in Saturday’s win, with the latter leading the team in receptions.
Hagler also had a standout game, with a TD reception, while junior running back Talimaivao Fonoti continued to impress out of the backfield with a pair of TDs, one reception and one on the ground.
Thrap capped a three-touchdown day on defense with a interception returned 50 yards for a score.
Also on defense, freshman Jacob Smallwood had another impressive showing at linebacker, where he has quickly established himself as a playmaker since making his varsity debut a week ago.
“He’s just a freshman, but he’s really made our defense better since he came in,” Tomlin said of Smallwood, who had multiple tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
“We played very physical today,” Tomlin said.
But leading the way, as he has been for much of the season, Omey had another strong all-around performance, including an interception on defense.
“I can’t talk enough about how good Will Omey was today,” the head coach said. “He was really electric running our offense. There’s nothing he’s not capable of doing on the football field.”
Tristin Campbell threw all three TDs for the Warriors, while Leonard Smith and Sonny Jarnaghan were each credited with strong performances on the defensive side of the ball.
Sam Jones also had a big game on special teams.
But it was Aguilar that stole the show.
“He’s exciting,” Tomlin said of the receiver. “He’s fun to watch.”
As for what makes him special?
“He finds openings in defenses and he has the speed to break away,” Simm said. “And he’s very good with his footwork and shiftiness.”
Next week, the Warriors travel to Trinity (0-2), while the Crusaders host Ferndale (1-2).