Crusaders set up for success once again this fall

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – St. Bernard’s quarterback Drew Sisemore.

By Ray Hamill — Despite having to replace all five starters on what was an outstanding offensive line a year ago, no one will be writing off the St. Bernard’s Crusaders this fall.

Head coach Matt Tomlin will get a first look at his new team in game situations this Saturday, when they host McKinleyville in a preseason scrimmage at Crusader Field.

And the SB players have been building momentum over the past two weeks since preseason practice began.

“Practice has been outstanding,” Tomlin said. “It’s a really good group of kids and they’ve been working hard . We’re going to be a really good team four or five weeks from now.”

The Crusaders will have to play without a number of key players for the first few weeks of the season because of injuries and transfer protocols, but they should be a force by the time league play roles around in late October.

Three returning players in particular should play a key role, including talented quarterback Drew Sisemore, who enjoyed outstanding junior campaign in 2021.

Also back is linebacker/running back Grant Omey and running back/defensive end Wyatt Simoni.

Tomlin believes Sisemore and Simoni are as good as any players in the H-DNL right now, while Omey has developed into one of the team’s most consistent threats on both sides of the ball and an inspirational team leader.

Unfortunately Omey will miss the opening few games after suffering an injury during the summer, but he is expected to be back by week three or four.

Dynamic senior receiver Owen Shanahan, who didn’t play in 2021, is also back on the team this fall and has “been outstanding in practice,” according to his coach.

Grant Omey

Shanahan will line up opposite the speedy Carl Nunes, which will give Sisemore two explosive weapons to throw to.

And while the Crusaders need to fill some sizable shoes along the line, the addition of four talented transfers will definitely help ease the transition.

Former Arcata Tiger Tucker Rice is one of the top linemen on the North Coast and will start at center, and he will be joined in the trenches by former McKinleyville Panther Kieran Flynn, a talented sophomore who broke into the Panthers varsity team as a freshman last fall.

Two other transfers — juniors Lane Ford from Eureka and Jonny Cortez from Fortuna — are also expected to have a big impact on the line, along with returning junior Kyler Smith, as third-year varsity player who saw plenty of action as the Crusaders’ sixth lineman last year.

Three of the four transfers, however, will have to sit out until Sept. 29 because of transfer protocols, although Rice will be available immediately after moving to Eureka.

The Crusaders will also feature a JV team this year.

“We’re really excited to have a full JV team back,” Tomlin said. “We have a really talented freshmen class and we’re really excited about the future with that group of kids.”

Saturday’s scrimmage will feature 30 offensive and 30 defensive snaps for each team, with the JVs starting at 10 a.m. and the varsity at 11.

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