Del Norte

Warriors edge the Crusaders to cap epic weekend for the Big 4

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — We’re two games into the Big 4 schedule and one thing is abundantly clear. All four teams have come to play this year.

A day after Fortuna and Eureka battled it out in another thrilling showdown between the two schools on Friday night, Del Norte and St. Bernard’s gave us an equally exciting matchup in Eureka on Saturday afternoon, with the visiting Warriors edging a 32-27 victory.

The third quarter featured six touchdowns, including four in a 56-second spell, as both teams battled back and forth in a physical battle, with the home team matching the visitors in that aspect.

“That was a tough game for sure,” said Del Norte head coach Nick White, whose team has now won three straight to go to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big 4. “It was definitely a hard-fought battle.”

After re-taking the lead late in the third quarter, the Warriors were able to hold on in a scoreless fourth quarter thanks to a couple of time-consuming drives and a big stand on defense, as their trademark physicality won out.


“Absolutely a great football game between two really good football programs,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “I’m so proud of my boys. We’re a school of 180 students playing against schools with a thousand students, and my boys have the courage and have the heart to compete with them, and they went toe-to-toe with them today.”

As usual, Del Norte’s grinding run game paved the way to victory, with several talented backs contributing behind a bruising line.

“They’re so big and strong and they’re just relentless,” Tomlin said of the Warriors. “But my guys met the physical challenge today.”

The Crusaders started the stronger of the two teams, driving the length of the field on their opening possession before scoring on a 13-yard TD run by quarterback Drew Sisemore.

Check out RJ Loftin’s game-winning touchdown above …

Del Norte had just three offensive plays in the first quarter, with Carl Nunes recovering an onside kick for the home team after Sisemore’s TD, and the SB defense forcing a quick three-and-out late in the period.

The Warriors, however, finally got going in the second quarter, piecing together a 14-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in a 26-yard TD pass from quarterback Cooper Maxwell to Giancarlo Desolenni.

Desolenni added a second TD later in the quarter, this one on a seven-yard run, as the Warriors began to take control, and they led 14-7 at halftime.

The game really came alive in a back-and-forth third quarter, with four touchdowns coming on the opening snaps of drives.

With Sisemore limited running the ball because of an injury he suffered at University Prep last week, the Crusaders moved talented sophomore Wyatt Simoni from the line to running back and he delivered with a pair of huge touchdown runs, one for 69 yards and the other for 68.

RJ Loftin was equally impressive for the visitors, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter, on runs of two, 10 and nine yards, while Demarte Prudhomme also scored for St. Bernard’s on a 62-yard TD reception.

Rounding out a wild, wild quarter of play, Jacob Smallwood recovered a fumble for the home team, while teammate Jeran Ford recovered an onside kick, and Desolenni recovered a fumble for the visitors.

Loftin’s third TD, however, came with 1:22 remaining in the quarter and gave the Warriors a five-point lead they would not relinquish.

Loftin’s big second half was crucial after senior running back Caleb Dodson suffered a leg injury right before halftime and did not return.

“RJ really stepped into that role,” White said.

The Del Norte coach was also pleased with the way his players responded to the early challenges.

“They played hard the whole game and always believed,” he said. “There was a lot of adversity but we made the plays to win the game and that’s what matters.”
Simoni was a difference maker for the home team and is enjoying a sensational season.

“He’s probably been our team MVP this year,” Tomlin said. “Whatever position we put him at he’s been our guy.”

Smallwood also had a big impact on defense after returning from an injury that kept him out last week, while the consistent Perry Bailey was outstanding again on both sides of the ball.

Tomlin also praised Nick White and his brother Chris, who is also a coach with the Warriors.

“The White brothers are doing such a good job,” the St. Bernard’s coach said. “They’ve really got them rolling up there in Del Norte.”

With the loss, the Crusaders are now 0-1 in the Big 4 and 2-3 overall.

Del Norte also won the JV game, 42-0.

1 reply »

  1. I think the “experiment” of placing SB in the Big 4 (Big 5 of old) has run its course. SB should still be in the traditional Little 4 along with Hoopa, Ferndale, and South Fork. I think the SB varsity team has around 16 players, the junior varsity team (first in 4 years) has 13 players. This is not sustainable and there is really no reason to keep on having them play in a league that has in some cases schools with 10 times the enrollment (Eureka High).

    The Little 4 should be returned to its traditional schools and the same goes for the traditional Big 5. These leagues were set up long ago based on enrollment, not wins and losses.

    That is the way it should be today.

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