Defense steps up late as Crusaders hold on for much-needed win at Fortuna

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – St. Bernard’s running back Grant Omey breaks free on a long touchdown run during the first half of Friday’s game at Husky Field.

By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s Crusaders kept their league championship and playoff hopes alive with a hard-fought 33-28 win over Fortuna at Husky Field on Friday night, as both teams kicked off the Big 4 in an entertaining showdown.

Trailing by a pair of touchdowns at halftime, the home team rallied after the interval and pushed the visitors all the way, scoring on two of their second-half possessions and driving deep into St. Bernard’s territory on their other two.

A pair of big defensive stands at the 7 and 1, however, lifted the Crusaders to a crucial victory and leaves them needing just one win in their final two games to be playoff eligible.

While he was happy with a victory, St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin was left frustrated by his players’ lack of discipline and composure.

“It was probably the most disappointed I’ve been after a win in my 10 years at St. Bernard’s,” he said. “We just didn’t show any discipline.”

The Crusaders had two late hits on the quarterback and what Tomlin described as “three or four cheap-shot hits,” as well as “15 or 16 penalties.” 

“We just didn’t play good and we lost our composure,” the coach added. “If we’re going to make the playoffs we have to clean that up, and that’s on me and the coaches.”

There were some bright spots in addition to the all-important win, including the play of senior Grant Omey, who continued to set the tone running the ball.

Omey scored touchdowns on runs of 55 and 70 yards, one in either half, and was a big part of the SB game plan.

“We came into the game knowing we wanted to give Omey the ball 25 times, and he was electric,” Tomlin said. “He’s just a really talented running back. He was explosive.”

The senior back finished with 261 yards on 19 carries.

Both teams started the game well offensively, with three touchdowns within the first seven minutes.

Check out Owen Shanahan’s 34-yard TD reception above …

Wyatt Simoni opened the scoring for the visitors on a short TD run just 85 seconds into the game, but the Huskies answered on the ensuing possession when quarterback Coltyn Corning found receiver Tegan Rumley on a 17-yard pass to the end zone.

Omey then gave the visitors a lead they would not relinquish on the first of his TD runs with 4:54 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Crusaders would stretch their lead when quarterback Drew Sisemore threw an 11-yard TD pass to Carl Nunes midway through the second quarter, but the Huskies responded again just three minutes later when Jake Houseworth scored on a one-yard run.

The first-half offense continued when St. Bernard’s added to the lead again before halftime, with Sisemore finding receiver Owen Shanahan on a 34-yard TD pass.

“I thought Drew Sisemore played well,” Tomlin said of the accurate senior who made plays through the air when they needed them. “We were very efficient in the passing game.”

The Huskies, to their credit, never gave up and made a game of it with a big second half.

“I knew we had to play really well to compete and in the first half we made too many mistakes,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said. “And we settled in in the second half and our kids responded, and I was really proud of them for that.

“We won that second half.”

Rumley had a big night for the home team, as did Matt Letter, who scored his team’s fourth TD of the night on an eight-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

“A lot of our guys stepped up, but those two definitely shined,” Benbow said.

Simoni also had a big game at defensive end and running back for St. Bernard’s.

Check out Jake Houseworth’s TD run for Fortuna below …

“He’s always making plays for us, whether that’s at defensive end or blocking,” Tomlin said.

For the Huskies, the difference from the first half to the second half was noticeable.

“I just think our kids were a little more disciplined in the second half, and we focused a lot better,” Benbow said. “I just know that with this team you’re not sure what you’re going to get, but they play hard.”

And they don’t quit.

With the win, the Crusaders improved to 1-0 in the Big 4 and 4-4 overall, while the Huskies dropped to 0-1 and 3-5.

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