Playing at home against Arcata, the Crusaders pulled away in the second quarter and never looked in danger after that, posting a comprehensive 47-12 win.
Junior quarterback Drew Sisemore has looked sensational early in the new season and accounted for five of his team’s seven touchdowns on the day.
Sisemore ran in for two scores, while also taking full advantage of a plethora of talented weapons and throwing for three TDs to three different receivers.
“We did a lot of really good things today, and I’m excited about that,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “There’s some stuff we still have to get better at — we had some penalties and some dropped passes — but if we clean that up, we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good football team.”
The opening quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with a 90-second spell midway through the period as enthralling as any you could see all season.
The blistering run began when Demitrius Rawson caught a pass from Sisemore and took it 55 yards to the end zone to give the home team a 6-0 advantage.
The Tigers answered immediately when Cameron Kline recovered an onside kick and returned it 50 yards to tie the game.
Two plays later, Sisemore delivered again, this time connecting with Carl Nunes, who broke free up the middle and made his speed count, taking it 73 yards for his first Crusaders TD.
That was three touchdowns in 31 seconds, but the early excitement wasn’t done.
St. Bernard’s immediately tried another onside kick and fared better this time, with Jeran Ford recovering it.
Three plays later, Arcata got the ball back when Alex Jioras intercepted a pass.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that was about as exciting as the day got, with the home team gradually pulling away after that.
Sisemore added a pair of TD runs in the second quarter, scoring from six and 19 yards out.
Demarte Prudhomme stretched the advantage midway through the third quarter, scoring the first of his two TDs on a 31-yard run, before Wyatt Simoni found the end zone on a nine-yard run five minutes later.
Sisemore and Prudhomme connected for the home team’s seventh TD of the day in the fourth quarter, this one for 65 yards.
“Our weapons got a chance to get going today,” Tomlin said. “We have a lot of athletes.”
While the Crusaders’ offense put up some big numbers, the team’s defense was arguably even more impressive, executing coordinator Eddy Vainuku’s game plan to perfection.
Sisemore and Rawson in particular had outstanding days in the defensive backfield, shutting down a dangerous Arcata receiving corps, while the Crusader’s pass rush left Tigers quarterback Shane Purcell scrambling all afternoon.
“They locked those guys down,” Tomlin said. “And that allowed us to blitz and put a lot of pressure on their quarterback.”
While SB was playing its second game of the season, it was a difficult opener for the Tigers, who had four new starters and a returning underclassman on an offensive line that struggled.
“It was one of those days, when you have five young guys on the line,” said head coach Jamal Jones, who was adamant this team will still be good this year.
“This season we expect to be an extremely special season for us and that trajectory hasn’t changed,” he added. “But we’ve got to learn how to deal with adversity. But we’ll be back.”
Ty Franklin scored Arcata’s second TD late in the third quarter on a 27-yard reception from Purcell.
The Arcata quarterback did as well as he could have been expected to under the circumstances.
“When he had time he delivered his shots,” Jones said. “But he’s working through some things. He has to get better. We have to get better. But don’t count us out.”
Alex Gorge also had a fumble recovery for the visitors, while teammate Aiden Porto had an interception.
Tomlin, who said he believes Arcata will have a good season and should be competitive in the North Coast Section playoffs (Division 6), also had words of praise for the SB offensive line, which delivered in a pass-heavy game plan and gave Sisemore plenty of time to throw the ball.
Nunes’ performance also was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.
Not only is this the speedy junior’s first season playing high school football, but after a couple of early drops on Saturday he responded well, with his 73-yard scoring catch coming at a pivotal time of the game, and he looks like he could be a huge weapon for the Crusaders, along with Rawson and Prudhome, among several others.
The St. Bernard’s JVs, meanwhile, played their first game in four years at Fort Bragg on Friday night and came away with an 18-12 victory.
QB Seth Brunton threw three TD passes to receiver Tyler Dimmick for the Crusaders, who travelled with just 13 players.
Ethan Hagler and Paco Davila both had huge games on defense, finishing with four sacks each.
“It was a great weekend for our program,” Tomlin said.