Confident St. Bernard’s peaking at the right time


Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — If the Crusaders play at the same level they did last Saturday in this weekend’s NCS championship game, they’ll be tough to stop.

St. Bernard’s is firing on all cylinders right now, much like Ferndale and Del Norte, the other two H-DNL teams who will also play for a section championship on Saturday night, and all three will carry plenty of confidence into their big showdowns.

The Crusaders cruised to a 35-7 win over a very good Middletown in their Division-6 semifinal, taking control with a three-TD lead before halftime.

They played what head coach Matt Tomlin described as their most complete performance since they won a state title back in 2015, and anyone who was in attendance would be hard-pressed to argue that opinion.

The Crusaders are playing like a team with few weaknesses.

They have come out ready to go with a business-like efficiency in each of their first two playoff games, a testament to their coaches and veteran leaders.

They run the the ball, they pass the ball, the run block, they pass protect, and most of all they play outstanding team defense.

You don’t hold a team like Middletown to one touchdown if you’re not playing outstanding defense.

Linebacker Justin Hagler, a Division-I college prospect, is the inspirational leader on that defense, but not the only hero on a unit that flies around the field with abandon and always seems to implement the game plan to near perfection.

They’ll be tested as much as ever on Saturday, playing Kennedy, the No. 1 seed in the Division-6 bracket and a team that will carry plenty of momentum and confidence itself after an outstanding season.

There are rarely any easy games at this stage of the season, and Saturday’s showdown at Benicia High School will be a battle for the Crusaders.

But if they continue to play at the level that got them there, there’s every reason to expect they’ll come back to Eureka on Saturday night with an NCS championship.

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