The Crusaders won just one of their five games during the shortened spring season, but there are several reasons to expect a much better campaign this time around and head coach Matt Tomlin’s teams are rarely down for long.
This year’s team features a lot of talented seniors, with four starters back in the trenches, two quality quarterbacks, a ton of depth at receiver, and one newcomer who already looks as if he could one of the finds of the summer.
“We are senior heavy,” Tomlin said after watching his team scrimmage Ukiah on Saturday. “So they already know what we’re trying to do, and they bring great energy every day.”
Like any football team, Tomlin and the Crusaders will rely heavily on their linemen, including returning starters Perry Bailey, Brody Tomlin, Jacob Smallwood and Dominic Kofi.
The unit is bigger and stronger than last season and will also benefit from the addition of sophomore Wyatt Simoni.
“We’re really high on this group,” the head coach said.
Simoni has already developed into a team leader and was praised by Matt Tomlin for his offseason work, where he has been setting the tone along with senior tight end/linebacker Deshaun Bailey.
Senior transfer Jaren Ford also joins the team this year and is playing football for the first time ever, although you wouldn’t know that from Saturday’s scrimmage, where he finished with four sacks at defensive end.
“Wow, he was outstanding today,” Matt Tomlin said.
Two juniors will feature at quarterback, with Drew Sisemore penciled in as the starter.
“He kind of led the offseason program and earned the respect of his teammates,” the head coach said of Sisemore. “He’s explosive and he’s fast when he runs the football. And he’s really developed as a passer. He’s the undisputed leader of this football team.”
Sisemore suffered a hand injury in last weekend’s scrimmage and his status for Saturday’s opener is up in the air, but fellow junior Seth Brunton appears well capable of filling in after a standout performance against Ukiah.
“He really stood out today with a great performance,” Matt Tomlin said of Brunton after the scrimmage.
Linebackers Smallwood and Grant Omey, meanwhile, will help lead the way on defense.
The Crusaders also have a ton of depth at receiver, with as many as eight players expected to rotate in and see significant minutes.
In addition, the Crusaders return four of their five first-team all-conference selections, including Perry Bailey, Demetrius Rawson, Smallwood and Omey.
The Crusaders, who will also field a JV team this fall for the first time in four years, open the season against St. Vincent de Paul in Petaluma on Saturday night.