Special teams, defense lead the way as Crusaders roll to easy victory

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – St. Bernard’s Demetrius Rawson defends on a pass intended for Eureka’s Peyton Harbin during Saturday’s game.

By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders left little doubt on Saturday as to who is the best football team in the city of Eureka this year, dominating the Loggers in all phases of the game and rolling to a comfortable 27-0 win at St. Bernard’s.

Special teams got the party started early for St. Bernard’s, with junior Carl Nunes returning the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and registering what would turn out to be the winning score just seconds in.

The Crusaders added a second special teams touchdown before the end of the first quarter, while the team’s offense consistently moved the ball and the defense stifled a Loggers offense that really failed to show up.

“Defensively that was the best game we’ve played in a few years,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “And offensively we made plays when we needed to make them.”

The St. Bernard’s special teams also played exceptional in just about every aspect of their performance.

In addition to Nunes’ big return, Wyatt Simoni blocked a Loggers punt deep in Eureka territory late in the first quarter, allowing teammate Perry Bailey recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Ad that wasn’t all for the SB special teams, with outstanding games by kicker Brayden Luna and punter Jeran Ford, who continually placed the ball wherever needed and won the field position battle for their team.

“Jeran Ford is the best punter I’ve had in my nine years coaching here,” Tomlin said. “His ability to change the field position is outstanding. He’s just an excellent punter.”

Defensively, Dominic Kofi and Bailey continued to set the tone on the interior line, with Simoni and Demarte Prudhomme both outstanding again on the edge.

“Dominic Kofi and Perry Bailey, those two guys are so good at defensive tackle they just change the game,” Tomlin said. “They make it harder for other teams to run inside. Our whole defensive line was just outstanding.

Check out video highlights of St. Bernard’s two second-half TDs above …

“I think our defensive line really set the tone for our performance today.”

That also included Brody Tomlin and Jamarious January, each of whom also rotated in and had a big impact slowing down the Loggers offense.

Eureka’s performance, on the other hand, was disappointing to say the least.

“We played really, really bad,” Eureka head coach Andrew Haraldson said. “We didn’t show up. That game was over early.

“Football is a game you’ve got to play with passion and you’ve got to put your heart into it. That’s why it’s such a special game. And we didn’t do that today.”

The Crusaders defense held the Eureka offense to three consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, and the visitors were held to one first down or less on nine of their first 10 possessions.

The Loggers also saw two of their five second-half drives end on interceptions, one each by Drew Sisemore and Braeden Zimmerman.

Sisemore’s pick came on the opening possession of the second half and set up an 11-play scoring drive that ended on a seven-yard TD pass from Sisemore to Peyton Smith five minutes into the third quarter.

That put the home team up by three TDs and essentially ended the game as a contest.

Running back Grant Omey would add a 59-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to widen the gap further.

With the win, the Crusaders improved to 3-2 in the Big 5, with both losses coming against Del Norte, and they are now 5-4 overall.

With the loss, the Loggers drop to 1-4 in the Big 4 and 2-6 overall and they have been unable to find their rhythm this fall with COVID protocols and injuries taking a massive toll on the team and their practices this season.

“They had tough luck early in the season with COVID, but that team’s out there fighting,” Matt Tomlin said. “And hats off to Rogan Bode. He’s one of the best football players we’ve played against.”

With the win, the Crusaders not only secured the season sweep of their crosstown rivals, but now also have the upper hand in the all-time series between the two schools (3-2-1) for the first time ever, with five of the six all-time meetings coming in the past three seasons.

Chan Vang continued to impress for the Loggers, coming away with an interception early in the fourth quarter for his team’s only takeaway of the day.

St. Bernard’s closes out the regular season at home to Fortuna next week, while Eureka travels to play Del Norte.

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