By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s Crusaders will feature a lot of young players this season, but head coach Matt Tomlin and his staff have every reason to feel excited about the future.
Tomlin has just one starting senior on his roster of 25, with more than half of those players (13) either freshmen or sophomores.
But that doesn’t mean this spring’s team won’t pack a punch.
The one returning senior is Bode Joyner, who could be the best quarterback on the North Coast, and is expected to close out his high school career with a bang.
“Joyner’s looking outstanding at practice,” Tomlin said of his team leader.
The Crusaders will be without the services of five starters for this weekend’s preseason scrimmage at McKinleyville because of COVID contact tracing, but they are hoping to have them all back for their season opener at home to Eureka the following weekend.
“We’re very young,” Tomlin said “We only have one senior starter, but when everybody can play we actually feel we’re pretty good. We like the pieces we have.”
Two new players are expected to have an immediate impact on the offensive line, with McKinleyville transfers Perry Bailey and Dominic Kofi impressing their new coach during preseason practice.
“We really like how physical those two are,” Tomlin said of the two juniors.
Returning from last season’s state championship winning team is junior middle linebacker Jacob Smallwood, who is the captain of this year’s defense.
Also back and expected to play a key role is physical sophomore outside linebacker Grant Omey, as well as 6-foot-7 sophomore receiver Owen Shanahan.
“It’s a really close group,” Tomlin said of this year’s roster. “They’ve trained hard on their own prior to the season, and they’re just a fun group at practice.”
Two other players expected to play a big role are juniors Peyton Smith and Demetrius Rawson, each of whom contributed with some big moments on the way to the state championship.
Rawson will play receiver and defensive end and is one of two team captains along with Joyner.
“He’s taken on a leadership role,” Tomlin said. “We think he’s going to be pretty special.”
Smith, meanwhile, will play receiver and cornerback and the coach is hoping he carries on from an at-times impressive sophomore season.
“He made some pretty big plays for us last year,” Tomlin said.
The Crusaders will scrimmage at McKinleyville on Saturday at 2 p.m.
St. Bernard’s Schedule
Eureka at St. Bernard’s, 1 p.m.
South Fork at St. Bernard’s, 1 p.m.
St. Bernard’s at Fortuna, 7:30 p.m.
Hoopa at St. Bernard’s, 1 p.m.
St. Bernard’s at Del Norte, 7 p.m.