By Ray Hamill — It took them a little while to get going, but once they did there was no stopping the Del Norte Warriors in their Big 4 showdown at St. Bernard’s on Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors cruised to a 48-12 win after scoring four touchdowns in a 5 minute, 41 second spell — including two on their first two offensive snaps of the third quarter — to quickly stretched a nine-point lead to 36.
The win lifts the Warriors to 2-0 in the Big 4 and guarantees at least a share of the league championship.
They won Saturday’s game with a dominating performance in all aspects of the game, including two special teams touchdowns.
“I thought we played a complete game,” head coach Nick White said. “Offense, defense and special teams all contributed huge to the victory.”
Athletic sophomore Aden Mintonye was as influential as anyone in the outcome, returning a punt 65 yards for Del Norte’s opening score late in the first quarter and adding a 19-yard TD reception from quarterback Cooper Maxwell five minutes before halftime.
The Warriors special teams blocked two punts, the first of which set up a short Giancarlo Desolenni TD run in the final seconds of the second quarter to give them a 28-12 lead at halftime.
The second came midway through the third quarter and capped a dominating spell for the visitors, who quickly put the game out of reach.
Bryson Price got his hand on the ball, which was recovered by Kai Russell, who took it a few yards to the end zone to put his team up 48-12.
And that wasn’t all the impressive Price did.
Check out some of Aden Mintonye’s big plays on Saturday …
“Bryson Price had a hell of a game on the D-line,” White said. “He was really good all game long.”
Maxwell also had a short TD run three minutes into the second quarter to overturn an early 12-7 deficit.
“I thought our kids battled well,” White said. “We stayed even keel. We never get up too much, we never get down too much, they just keep grinding.”
The Crusaders were more than a match for the Warriors early in the game and appeared up for the challenge.
A big defensive stand on a fourth down set up their opening score, a 47-yard TD pass from quarterback Drew Sisemore to receiver Owen Shanahan midway through the first quarter.
The senior QB threw for a second TD in the opening minute of the second quarter, this one good for 37 yards to Aaiden Burris.
It came shortly after Mintonye’s big punt return and put the home team up 12-7.
“I’m really proud of my kids today,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “They showed up and played today.
“I thought we matched (Del Norte’s) physicality early in the game.”
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, Burris’ TD catch was their last score of the game, as the visitors began to take control.
The Warriors are now 7-1 on the season and have won 12 straight official league games dating back to Oct. 2018.
A victory over Fortuna next week would not only give them a third straight league title outright but would guarantee them a home game in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs, which kick off in two weeks.
The Huskies, however, are coming off a very impressive win over the Eureka Loggers and will be desperate as they need to win the game to make the playoffs themselves.
“We’ll enjoy this win tonight and then it’s right back to the grind on Monday to prepare for Fortuna,” White said. “They’e always a tough team to prepare for.
“It’s a huge game for both of us.”
For St. Bernard’s, which dropped to 1-1 in league and 4-5 on the season, the playoffs essentially get under way next week and the Crusaders must beat Eureka at home to make the NCS Division-5 bracket.
“We know it’s playoff week now,” Tomlin said. “We play Eureka, and if we win we get to play again, and if we lose it’s on to basketball season.”
After an entertaining start, Saturday’s game got sloppy quickly when an assortment of penalties were called on both teams.
“It was a great football game between two good teams and a great atmosphere, and then the flags started flying and the game never regained the rhythm it had,” Tomlin said.
Injuries didn’t help matters for the Crusaders, who lost three key starters — Shanahan, Ethan Hagler and Wyatt Simoni — and finished the game with just 15 players suited up.
“We’re hoping to get a few of those guys back (for next week),” Tomlin said. “They’re all big pieces.”