By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders got the better of their crosstown rivals in football for the second time in three years on Saturday night, defeating Eureka 14-7 at Albee Stadium.
The team’s defense paved the way to victory by shutting out the home team in the second half and coming up with a big turnover on downs at their own four-yard line in the final minutes.
Linebacker Grant Omey made the play of the game with four minutes remaining, when he chased down Eureka receiver Peyton Harbin for a touchdown saving tackle after Harbin had broken free down the sideline.
Omey made the tackle at the Eureka 13-yard line, and four plays later Peyton Smith all but sealed the win when he tackled Eureka quarterback Hans Chalmers inside the five on a fourth-down run that came up just inches short.
In what was another exciting and enthralling Big 4 matchup, all three touchdowns came in the second quarter on three successive possessions.
With the game tied 7-7 midway through the period, St. Bernard’s quarterback Drew Sisemore threw a beautiful 40-yard TD pass to receiver Carl Nunes for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Nunes was making his first start of the season and had a big impact at both receiver and cornerback, holding the Loggers receivers without a reception whenever they threw the ball in his direction.
“I thought he made a lot of good plays tonight,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said of Nunes.
Sisemore and the SB offense opened the scoring early in the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 64-yard drive with a 12-yard TD pass to Demarte Prudhomme.
Check out Drew Sisemore’s game-winning TD pass to Carl Nunes below …
The Loggers responded immediately, however, driving 65 yards on 11 plays and tying the game on a five-yard TD run by Chalmers.
That, however, was the last time the Eureka offense would see the end zone, thanks to a physical St. Bernard’s defense and another disappointing performance from the home team, which has now dropped four straight games.
“We made too many mistakes to win the game. We didn’t deserve to win the game,” Eureka head coach Andrew Haraldson said. “I thought our kids played played hard. We missed some assignments, but St. Bernard’s played well. They had a game plan and they made it work.”
The Crusaders have now matched up well physically against Del Norte and Eureka in the past two weeks, with the defensive line playing outstanding in conference play, particularly tackles Dominic Kofi and Perry Bailey.
“Those two guys at defensive tackle have really changed the way we play football this year,” Tomlin said. “They’re so physical inside they’re forcing teams to run sideways.”
Prudhomme and Wyatt Simoni have also been a force at defensive end, while team captain Jacob Smallwood continues to play at a very high level at linebacker.
“He made several tackles tonight,” Tomlin said of Smallwood. “He was flying all over the field.”
For Eureka, Joseph Gonzalez had a big game, especially on defense, and earned the praise of the opposing coach.
“He’s a really good football player,” Tomlin said of Gonzalez. “Tip of my cap to him.”
Kayro Jimenez also ran the ball effectively at times for Eureka, which saw a number of sustained drives come up short deep in St. Bernard’s territory.
Rogan Bode returned to the Loggers lineup after missing the past few games and made some big plays on offense, while Jordan Urban featured more heavily in the offensive backfield and had some nice gains.
It didn’t help matters for Eureka when junior receiver/DB Lary Jimenez was sidelined early with an injury, especially with three other starters already out for various reasons.
“He was a big part of our game plan,” Haraldson said of Lary Jimenez. “And that was a killer.”
Harbin too had a big game after taking on a bigger role when Lary Jimenez was sidelined, while middle linebacker Jake Wooden also had a good night.
The Eureka head coach, however, wasn’t blaming the absences for the loss.
“We aren’t going to win games until we clean up the mistakes,” he said.
Chalmers also came up with an interception at cornerback, as did teammate Marco Cruz, while Simoni had an interception for the Crusaders and continues to be a force running the ball.
With the loss, the Loggers dropped to 0-2 in the Big 4 and 1-4 overall.
The win lifts the Crusaders to 3-3 on the season and 1-1 in the Big 4, keeping them right in the mix for a conference title in what is shaping up to be a physical conference.
The win was also SB’s second over the Loggers in three years after beating them at home in 2019, while it evens the all-time series between the two schools at 2-2-1, with four of those matchups coming in the past few years after the Crusaders were moved to the Big 4.
It was also Tomlin’s first win at Albee Stadium, and he has now won at least once at every school in the H-DNL.
Next week, St. Bernard’s travels to Fortuna and Eureka hosts Del Norte.