By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders will play their first playoff game since their 2019 state championship win on Saturday when they host DeAnza at St. Bernard’s in their NCS opener.
And to say they’re excited to be back would be an understatement.
“After last year and the COVID season, we’re back to real football and playoff football,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for the players.”
The Crusaders also appear to be playing their best football of the year at the right time and are coming off back-to-back shutout victories over Big 4 rivals Eureka and Fortuna.
The defensive line has played a pivotal role in the team’s success this season, including senior Dominic Kofi, who is one of this week’s Humboldt Sports Athletes of the Week.
Another key has been the team’s preparation for games and a business-like approach from the players.
And that continued this week.
“It’s just been a great week of practice,” Tomlin said. “I really feel like we peaked in the last few weeks of the season, not just in the way we’ve been playing but also at practice.
“I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now.”
The Crusaders are 6-4 and seeded No. 4 in the Division-5 bracket, while the No. 5 Dons are 5-4 and riding a four-game winning streak after losing four straight earlier in the season.
Key to the Dons’ turnaround has been the play of senior running back Malakhi Demoss, who has over 1,345 yards total offense and is his team’s leading rusher and receiver.
“He’s a great player and a really explosive kid,” Tomlin said.
And he’s not the only challenge the Dons present.
“They’re a very athletic team with a really big offensive and defensive line,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to have our hands full. They’re a very good football team.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.