By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders are headed back to the North Coast Section championship game after dominating a very good Middletown team in the Division-6 semifinal round on Saturday.
St. Bernard’s marched all the way to the end zone on their opening possession to set the early tempo and they never looked back, rolling to a comfortable 35-7 win at Crusader Field.
It was about as dominant a performance as the Crusaders have managed in some time, in all aspects of the game, and that will give them plenty of confidence when they travel south to play No. 1 Kennedy for the championship next weekend.
“That was the most complete performance we put together since the 2015 state championship,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said.
And it was so on offense, defense and special teams.
Quarterback Will Omey was as brilliant as ever, accounting for four of his team’s six TDs, two on runs and two through the air.
He got plenty of help from an undersized but over-performing offensive line, which gave him plenty of time to throw the ball and opened up holes for the running game.
Likewise on defense, where the Crusaders comfortably contained a potent Mustangs running game, one that had its way against most opponents this season.
The Crusaders essentially ended the game when the came away with back-to-back takeaways in the second quarter, one on an Omey fumble recovery the other on a Justin Hagler interception that he returned 55 yards for a three-touchdown advantage.
Hagler made it a four-TD lead on the Crusaders’ opening possession of the second half, scoring on a 42-yard pass from Omey to cap a two-play, 66-yard drive that also included a 24-yard reception by receiver Lane Thrap.
The Crusaders should have known it was going to be their day when a Thrap fumble on their opening possession was scooped up by fullback Talimaivao Fonoti for a big gain that would set up a 17-yard Omey TD run to open the scoring.
Omey also threw a 60-yard TD pass to sophomore receiver Demarte Prudhomme, who has become an ever-more dangerous part of the SB offense.
All of that, however, was made possible with the play of both lines.
“They’re small guys, but they play with big heart,” Tomlin said. “I always tell them, the lion’s not the biggest animal in the jungle but he’s the toughest, and our guys played like lions today.”
That the SB defense made it look so relatively easy against such a good running team speaks volumes for the performance.
“I’d say the most impressive thing for me was the team defense. 11 guys working together,” Tomlin said. “We held down a very good running team today. We took them out of their game.”
Middletown closes out the season 8-3, while St. Bernard’s improves to 9-3.