By Ray Hamill — Luke Fairfield scored touchdowns in four different ways on Saturday, as the St. Bernard’s Crusaders rolled over visiting Albany in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs.
The senior receiver ran for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown, had a TD reception, and returned a punt for a touchdown.
“He had an amazing day,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said.
And he wasn’t alone.
The Crusaders cruised to this win, opening up a 59-14 lead at halftime and eventually winning 61-28.
Just as important, Tomlin got to rest most of his starters for the entire second half, and a Crusaders team that has been plagued by injuries in recent weeks came through the game unscathed.
Fairfield’s first pass of the season went to Lane Thrap for 70 yards on a trick play late in the first quarter and was one of the highlights of the day.
A second highlight play came on a Talimaivao Fonoti fumble recovery that he returned 55 yards to the end zone (see video) to give the home team a 46-14 lead with five minutes still remaining in the first half.
Fonoti, who is battling a wrist injury and was only able to line up on the defensive side of the ball, was switched to defensive end from linebacker this week, and the move paid immediate dividends.
Fonoti was a nightmare for the visiting offense, finishing with five sacks.
“He was just in their backfield causing havoc all day,” Tomlin said.
At the other defensive end spot, Cayden Gordon was every bit as effective, finishing with three sacks, as the duo played out the game plan to perfection.
“We came out and played defense, and kept attacking their quarterback, which is what we wanted,” Tomlin said. “It was one of our best defensive efforts of the season, and we needed that after the last few weeks.”
Depth of talent
Bode Joyner took over at quarterback late in the first half, and immediately showcased the depth of talent the Crusaders have at the position.
The sophomore had a brilliant scramble shortly after coming in, before completing a pass downfield to Thrap.
He capped the drive with a TD toss to the same receiver on the following play, and closed out the half with a perfectly thrown ball to the corner of the end zone to Sebastian Taylor, who scored on an equally impressive catch.
Joyner was one of several players to see some action at the quarterback position, as Tomlin used the second half to give some of his younger players some valuable playoff experience, including playing five freshmen.
One of those freshmen, Jacob Smallwood, has established himself as an important player on defense this year, making his first start at middle linebacker against Albany and finishing with 13 tackles and two sacks.
Connor Petrusha added the only score of the second half on a safety.
The win capped a big weekend for Big 4 teams in the NCS playoffs.
The Fortuna Huskies toppled El Molino 55-14 on Friday night, giving the Big 4 three of the final eight teams in the Division-IV bracket.
No. 5 seed St. Bernard’s will now play at No. 4 San Marin next Saturday.