By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s Crusaders won a wild Big 4 football game at Fortuna on Friday night, rallying for a 42-31 victory over the Huskies with an incredible second-half comeback.
After opening up an early 7-0 lead, the Crusaders then gave up 31 unanswered points to trail by 24 early in the third quarter.
They then rallied to score five unanswered TDs and pull out a remarkable victory, which was their second straight over a bigger school in the Big 4.
“It was a tale of two halves,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “We had some serious breakdowns in the first half and at halftime I talked to them and said we’re down but our own mistakes is why we’re down.
“We overcame a lot of injuries, and some guys stepped up and helped us come back.”
The second quarter was a difficult one for the Crusaders in more ways than just the scoring, with a pair of impact players — Jacob Smallwood and Wyatt Simoni — both sidelined through injury.
“They’re two major players for us, but guys stepped up,” Tomlin said. “And I couldn’t be prouder.”
The loss was a tough one to take for the home team, which appeared to be cruising early in the second half and in complete control of the game.
“It was a rough game for us,” head coach Mike Benbow admitted.
The Huskies suffered some key injuries of their own, most notably Breck Bishop, who was sidelined after scoring a pair of TDs.
“That was a big momentum shift for sure,” Benbow said.
The Crusaders got the scoring started on their second possession of the game, when quarterback Drew Sisemore connected with receiver Demetrius Rawson on an 80-yard TD pass.
The momentum, however, quickly changed with the Huskies scoring on three of their next four possessions to lead 24-7 at halftime.
The home team then received the ball to start the second half and quickly added to the lead when Bishop scored his second TD of the night on a three-yard run four minutes into the third quarter.
Then the momentum of the game switched completely again.
With Simoni forced out of the game, Grant Omey began to see more of the ball at running back and he didn’t disappoint, scoring on a pair of TD runs in the third quarter.
Sisemore then threw for a second TD, this one on a 29-yard screen pass to Demarte Prudhomme, to pull the visitors within three points.
Check out Drew Sisemore’s 80-yard TD pass to Demetrius Rawson below …
On the ensuing Fortuna possession, St. Bernard’s Carl Nunes stripped the ball and returned a fumble recovery 37 yards to the end zone to give the Crusaders their first lead since early in the game.
Sisemore and Rawson closed out the scoring with just under four minutes remaining, when the QB found the receiver for his second TD of the game, this one good for 10 yards.
Omey finished the game with 201 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“It was an outstanding performance by Omey,” Tomlin said. “He really carried us in the second half.”
In addition to Omey, sophomore Kyler Smith also picked up some of the slack after the injuries and played well at right tackle, while junior Jamarious January had a big night filling in on the defensive line.
Matt Letter opened the scoring for the Huskies on a two-yard run midway through the first quarter and gave his team a one-point lead when he added a two-point conversion run.
The Huskies added to their lead on their next possession, when QB Coltyn Corning found Will May open for a 27-yard TD pass, and then Corning ran in for a two-point conversion to stretch the advantage to nine.
Bishop made it a 24-7 lead before halftime, when he scored on a three-yard TD run and added a two-point conversion run.
The Huskies’ first-half performance was a far cry from last week’s disappointing shutout loss at Del Norte.
“I was super proud of our kids for rebounding from last week,” Benbow said. “We fought hard the whole game. It was just a momentum shift and we had a couple of things go against us.”
Letter had a good night despite the loss, running hard and making some big plays on both sides of the ball, as did Jake Houseworth and team leader Weylan McKnight.
“He’s our senior leader,” Benbow said of McKnight, who was a force on both lines. “And he does a fantastic job.”
Sisemore completed 8 of 15 passes for 156 yards and three TDs, while Corning completed all three of his passes for 76 yards and one TD.
With the win, the Crusaders improved to 2-1 in the Big 4 and 4-3 overall, while the Huskies are now 1-2 and 4-3.