Crusaders win physical, defensive battle in NCS opener

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders are moving on to the North Coast Section Division-5 semifinals after winning a thrilling defensive battle at home to De Anza on Saturday afternoon.

And they had to rally in the fourth quarter to do so, coming from behind to win 14-7.

“That was a great football game between two great football programs,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “Both defenses were dominant today, and we were able to find a way to win.”

Quarterback Drew Sisemore scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard run, as the Crusaders rallied from a 7-6 halftime deficit.

Wyatt Simoni had given the home team the lead early in the second quarter on a two-yard TD run, but the visitors responded on the ensuing drive when quarterback Michael Vanhook scored on a one-yard sneak, and they then took the lead on a successful PAT.

Defense and special teams were huge all day for St. Bernard’s, especially in the opening half.

Simoni’s TD run was set up on a brilliant play by Demarte Prudhomme, who tackled the De Anza punter inside his own 10-yard line after a high snap.

Ethan Hagler recovered the ball to give the Crusaders possession at the 7 and they would score two plays later.

The Crusaders had a golden opportunity to re-take the lead immediately after the Dons scored their TD, when Prudhomme returned the kickoff 87 yards to the De Anza 4-yard line, but the visiting defense stripped the ball away on the following play to end the threat.

Check out two big second-quarter plays by Demarte Prudhomme above …

Prudhomme capped another very good all-around performance with a successful two-point conversion after the second TD.

Hagler also added a big sack in the final minute of the first half when the Dons were threatening to score again.

The big story of the day was the SB defense, which continues to play at an elite level, and has now allowed just one TD in the past three games.

“We’re playing physical, and we’re tackling well, and we’re playing good team defense,” Tomlin said.

Senior linebacker and team captain Jacob Smallwood was instrumental once again in the win and he appears to be playing the best football of his career right now.

“Jacob Smallwood might have had his best game all season today,” Tomlin said. “He was all over the field, and he was physical.”

The win sets up a semifinal showdown at No. 1 seed San Marin next Friday night.

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