Crusaders look to start fast at Hoopa

By Ray Hamill — It’s full steam ahead for the Crusaders, who will be looking for a fast start once again at Hoopa on Friday night.

Led by seniors Will Omey and Lane Thrap, St. Bernard’s came storming out of the gates a week ago at El Molino, opening up a 36-0 lead before halftime.

And head coach Matt Tomlin will be looking for another decisive start from his players, especially going up against a Hoopa team that has not played a game yet.

“We have a game under our belts and they haven’t, so we can’t play fast enough on Friday night,” Tomlin said. “We have to really try to fatigue them.”

Thrap, who was named Redwood News Athlete of the Week, caught four passes for 210 yards against El Molino, with three of them going for touchdowns.

The lopsided win allowed Tomlin and his staff to play several of their younger players in the second half.

Good preparation

Preparation for Friday’s game has been going well, according to Tomlin, with a clean bill of health heading into week two.

Senior linebacker and defensive leader Justin Hagler has been limited this summer with a lingering hamstring injury, but is close to 100 percent again.

Hagler, who also plays running back but was not expected to play offense early in the season, had some carries at El Molino, putting him ahead of schedule.

“He’s healthier,” Tomlin said. “He’s still a little sore but he’s able to run. He should be 100 percent two or three weeks from now.”

Expecting a challenge

The head coach is expecting a challenge from a Hoopa team that showed a lot of improvement a year ago, on their way back to the NCS playoffs for the first time in several years.

The Warriors were forced to cancel their scheduled opener at Fort Bragg last week due to mounting injuries, but are healthy again and ready to open their season in front of a home crowd.

“We know that Hoopa has good athletes. We expect (Carlos) Aguilar and (Jasper (Hostler) to be good, they’re two good receivers,” Tomlin said. “And (quarterback John) Smith showed that he can throw the ball last year and make plays with his feet.”

Tomlin added that he expects the Hoopa line to be ready, with several returning players back along a solid unit.

Tomlin coached Hoopa head coach Sonny Ryles during his time at College of the Redwoods.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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