Improving Crusaders embrace big late-season challenge

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The Crusaders are clearly getting better as the season progresses, but they’ve left themselves with a sizable challenge if they are to qualify for this year’s North Coast Section playoffs.

On Saturday, St. Bernard’s fell 35-24 to a very good St. Vincent de Paul team in Petaluma and dropped to 3-4 on the season.

They must now win two of their final three games — all in a very tough Big 4 against bigger schools — in order to be playoff eligible.

“We like our chances,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “It’s going to be a battle. Those three teams — Del Norte, Eureka and Fortuna — they’re all really good and they’re all very well coached. I feel like the Big 4 is like the SEC. Every game is so important.

“Like I told our players, the season begins now. We have to find a way to win two of three games.”

The good news is they have shown plenty of improvement this season, and on Saturday they pushed the Mustangs far closer than in a 33-7 loss to the same team in their season opener.

That improvement has been particularly noticeable along an offensive line that features Lane Ford, Jony Cortez, Tucker Rice, Jamarious January and Kyler Smith, who led the way again on Saturday.

“Those five guys kept us in the game,” Tomlin said.

The head coach liked a lot of what he saw from his players in the loss, but was disappointed with what has been a recurring problem for the team.

“I was really happy with a lot of the things we did today,” he said. “We were physical today and we ran the ball well. We just had three or four breakdowns on drives when we got inside the 20.”

Those breakdowns are something they will have to address before they kick off league play at Fortuna next week.

One week after he accounted for seven of his team’s touchdowns in a 61-40 win at Guymon High School in Oklahoma, SB quarterback Drew Sisemore had another good game.

The senior ran in for his team’s opening TD and would also throw for a touchdown later in the game, connecting with Wyatt Simoni.

The Mustangs, who came into the game with a record of 6-0 and had won their games by an average of more than 28 points, were pushed much closer than they have been all season.

They led by just 14-7 at halftime and the Crusaders would pull within four points on a 24-yard field goal by Esteban Perez-Estrada in the third.

The big-play ability of the Mustangs, however, saw them pull away after that, and they scored on runs of 81 and 46 yards to open up a 28-10 lead early in the fourth.

St. Bernard’s Grant Omey scored on a nine-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 11, but the home team quickly widened the lead yet again, before Simoni’s late TD catch.

1 reply »

  1. My hats off to the Crusaders, they play well together and have a solid program from such a small school. I don’t want to take anything away from that, it is a good story.

    However, as I have posted in the past when they were originally forced to play in what was the Big 5, they should not have to compete at this higher school level when it comes to League or playoffs. It is simply not fair to the players, coaches, and parents.

    Based on the story above that is exactly what they must do. Compete against schools that are much, much bigger enrollment wise and do that from League all the way through playoffs.

    Not the way it should be done. The Big 5 and Little 4 should have remained intact so that the small schools and large schools could compete fairly.

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