Do the Crusaders belong in the Big 4? You be the judge

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – The Crusaders won two of their final three games to make the NCS postseason.

By Ray Hamill — Ever since the St. Bernard’s Crusaders switched to the Big 4 before the 2018 season, there has been no shortage of debate as to whether or not they belong there.

On the one hand, it’s always going to be difficult for a small school — even a small private school —  to consistently compete against schools that feature four to six times the student population, especially going up against established programs.

Their league opponents are not just bigger schools, but powerhouse football programs, all of whom have competed in the state playoffs in recent years.

On the other hand, the Crusaders always attract some of the most talented athletes in the area and appear well capable of competing against the larger schools.

Under the guidance of head coach Matt Tomlin, there is no denying the fact the Crusaders have been a competitive force in the Big 4.

During that time the Crusaders have a league record of 8-7, although they did lose to all three of their league opponents by a combined 81 points during the COVID-shortened spring season of 2021 when there was no official league.

In their five league matchups against Fortuna dating back to 2018, they are 4-1, including three straight wins over the Huskies over the past two seasons.

They are also a very impressive 4-1 against the Loggers in Big 4 games, having won four straight, but they have dropped all five matchups against a dominating Del Norte team by an average of 13.4 points.

Interestingly, SB has not lost a league matchup against either Eureka or Fortuna since the 2019 season.

The Crusaders also have posted back-to-back winning records in the Big 4, having finished 4-2 in 2021 and 2-1 this year.

It’s also important to remember that the Crusaders dominated in the Little 4 in the five seasons before they switched, going 27-1 in that time and winning five consecutive league titles.

So do they belong with the bigger schools? You can be the judge of that, but there’s no denying they have been competitive against them.

3 replies »

  1. If its based on school student enrollment, then what are the Top 9 schools?🙄🤷‍♂️

    St. B’s would still play the same schools, it’s just a matter of switching up games to accomodate whatever “league schedule”.

    Wasn’t it Big 4, Little 5 before…

    Big 4 -Del Norte, Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna

    Little 5 – St. B’s, Ferndale, South Fork, Hupa, McKinleyville


    Big 5, Little 4

    Big 5 – Del Norte, Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna, McKinleyville

    Little 4 – St. Bernards, Ferndale, South Fork, Hupa

  2. Well when SB can recruit any kid from any school without repercussions, they definitely deserve to play against bigger schools.

  3. Look at rankings. Parochial schools dominate. I always found it annoying that open district schools will cluster the best athletes to the best program in a more metro area, while parochials recruit. Wait! They don’t recruit! As I found out once at Marin Catholic while we played a non league contest. I made comment to a local on our sideline about what a great athlete a particular kid was. YES! He is “Johnny” from (A city on the central coast) “My wife and I sponsor him!” De LaSalle is another great example. 400 game winning streak. One thing the movie, When the Game Stands Tall, got right was a league discussion where De denied sucking up the area’s athletes. Another coach, “Sure, that’s why “Johnny” takes a 45 min bus ride to your school to play backup. But he would be a starter for us. I am glad for SB and the success they have had. I wont get into it here, but I have also witnessed their win at all costs approach up close and was not very impressed. Let them stay up.

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