(UPDATED on Nov. 9 – game pushed back to Monday)
By Ray Hamill — For St. Bernard’s, the plan is simple going into this weekend’s North Coast Section playoff game at San Marin. They have to play Crusader football.
Fresh off a big win over Albany last weekend, the No. 5 seed St. Bernard’s will play at No. 4 San Marin on Monday afternoon, in a rematch of last season’s NCS quarterfinal, which the Eureka school won 64-21.
And SB head coach Matt Tomlin will be hoping for another high-scoring affair.
“We’ve got to really force the fast tempo and a high-scoring game,” Tomlin said. “If we can get the score up to the 40s or 50s, I don’t think they can hang with us.”
The Mustangs, on the other hand, will be looking to do the opposite, and grind out a win behind a power running game that predominantly features senior Zak Cunningham.
“They’ve got a really strong running game, a really strong running back,” Tomlin said of Cunningham. “He’s a pretty good player.”
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday but was pushed back two days due to the poor air quality throughout the section caused by this week’s wild fires.
Plenty of options
The Crusaders have plenty of options on offense and quarterback Will Omey will be looking to spread the ball around in order to get that quick tempo offense moving.
It was certainly working last weekend, when St. Bernard’s rolled to an easy 61-28 win over Albany, scoring 59 first-half points.
The Crusaders feature several big playmakers on their roster, including Luke Fairfield, Lane Thrap, Sebastian Taylor and Justin Hagler, each of whom was on their game a week ago and each of whom is a threat to go all the way every time they touch the ball.
The home team will try to counter that by keeping the Crusaders offense off the field as much as possible, and when the visitors do have the ball they can expect to see a speedy unit line up against them.
“Defensively, they’ve got some athletes that fly around,” Tomlin said.
Productive week of practice
The Crusaders are coming off their best week of practice all season and appear up for the challenge.
“We had a tremendous week of practice,” Tomlin said. “On Tuesday and Wednesday, we just couldn’t do anything wrong in practice, and that has me feeling very confident going into the game.”
On the injury front, the Crusaders are as healthy as they’ve been in some time.
Junior Talimaivao Fonoti, who has been limited by a wrist injury in recent weeks, is almost 100 percent and could see action again at running back if needed.
Fonoti has not been limited defensively by the injury, switching from linebacker to defensive end a week ago and having an immediate impact with a huge game that included a fumble recovery returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
The Crusaders will travel south on Friday, stopping in Petaluma along the way to practice at St. Vincent de Paul High School.
Monday’s game will be streamed live via the High School Sports Network, which can be accessed through MaxPreps.
It will also be broadcast live on the Mix 95.1 FM and The Edge 106.7 FM, with the pregame show getting under way at 12:40 p.m.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.