By Ray Hamill — There’s something to be said about winning your final high school game in any sport, especially if that’s a championship game, and even more so if it’s a state championship game.
Not every athlete gets to go out on top, to walk off into the sunset with a championship medal and a swagger that says we did everything we had to, conquered all in front of us, and rose to every challenge.
But that’s exactly what a group of 12 St. Bernard’s seniors get to do.
A group that will collectively be remembered with a air of awe, a class that set a standard for the ages, and a bunch of close friends whose smiling faces in the rain at the Redwood Bowl on Saturday will be forever immortalized in photographs on the walls of St. Bernard’s Academy.
The grins of gratification were well deserved.
Much like the 2015 team, this was an especially talented group that achieved ever greater things as a unit working together and playing with a near telepathic chemistry.
You don’t win a state championship any other way.
You also don’t win one, let alone two, without great coaching, and Matt Tomlin now stands as tall as any coach the H-DNL has seen in some time.
Tomlin, I’ll hazard a guess, will be back on the sidelines a year from now and for years to come, but for many of his seniors this will be the end of the line.
Some of them, no doubt, will go on to play football in college and likely enjoy successful careers there, while others will focus instead on a different chosen collegiate athletic field, and no doubt succeed there.
But for many, this will be the end of the journey, at least in football, and you can’t possibly ask for a better way to go out.
Will Omey, Lane Thrap and Justin Hagler, in particular, have left a mark on this program that will not easily be bettered.
Omey had more than 5,000 yards of total offense this season and accounted for 60 touchdowns, remarkable stats by any standard.
For his career, the senior quarterback has 9,036 yards, while accounting for 111 TDs, most of those in the past two years, where he led the entire NCS in total yards in each season.
Incredible numbers that don’t even take into account the senior’s incredible leadership.
Likewise with Thrap and Hagler, who each also have been nothing short of sensational all year long, even as their reputations grew and they faced more and more attention and double team coverage from respectful opponents.
Thrap led the NCS in receiving this year with 1,550 yards, and closes out his high school career with 2,512 receiving yards and 39 career TDs, most of them in the past two seasons also.
Hagler also led the NCS this season in tackles with 167, and has been contributing ever more on defense since making his first interception as a freshman.
All three were named to the Big 4 all-league team this season, along with bruising running back and defensive lineman Talimaivao Fonoti, who also had a huge season for the team.
Hagler was named co-defensive MVP of the Big 4. (The full all-league teams will officially be released in January after all four teams have held their end-of-season banquets.)
There were plenty of other seniors who had a big impact for the Crusaders on their march to a state title, including the likes of defensive lineman Elisha Moon, kicker Guillermo Perez-Estrada, lineman Harmon Daniel, offensive lineman/linebacker Cole Petrusha, lineman Bowdy Dunn, offensive lineman/linebacker Connor Petrusha, receiver/corner Logan Petrusha and lineman Kieran Howe.
All of them will go down in school history as members of the second state championship team, a roster of players that can now hold their heads a little higher than most of their companions in the annals of St. Bernard’s sports.
(Perez-Estrada, Daniel, Cole Petrusha, Logan Petrusha and Connor Petrusha were each also named to the Big 4 all-league second team.)