By Ray Hamill — Two programs that have become familiar with each other in recent years will face off once again on Friday night, when St. Bernard’s travels to Novato to play San Marin in the North Coast Section Division-5 football semifinals.
The showdown between the No. 5 Crusaders (6-5) and No. 1 Mustangs (9-2) will be the fourth meeting in five postseasons between the two teams, with San Marin holding a slender 2-1 advantage in the previous three.
Last season, however, it was the Crusaders who pushed the Mustangs closer than anyone on their way to a state championship, losing by just one point after failing on a late two-point conversion as they went for a dramatic road win.
Previous meetings also include a 49-47 win for San Marin in 2018 and a 64-21 rout for the Crusaders in 2017.
The Crusaders will carry some momentum into Saturday’s big clash after winning back-to-back games for the first time all season, including a 51-25 win at De Anza last week, and they appear to be playing their best football of the season right now.
This year’s team is also a little different to the SB teams San Marin has faced in the past, with the 2022 Crusaders featuring a more balanced offense.
They are running the ball more this year, with the effective tandem of Grant Omey and Wyatt Simoni giving Tomlin and his coaches a potent one-two punch in the backfield alongside the ever-dangerous Drew Sisemore at quarterback.
Just as importantly, the offensive line is playing at a very high level at the business end of the season.
“Our offensive line is outstanding,” the head coach said of the unit that includes Jonathan Cortez, Lane Ford, Tucker Rice Jamarious January and Kyler Smith. “They have been really physical, and they’re working well together.”
The game is one of four NCS semifinals featuring H-DNL teams this weekend and the only one scheduled for Friday night, with Del Norte, McKinleyville and South Fork all playing on Saturday afternoon.
Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on MIX 95.1 FM and streamed through the NFHS Network.