By Ray Hamill — Wyatt Simoni and the St. Bernard’s Crusaders got the new season off to an impressive start with a 47-6 win over Hoopa at Crusader Field on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that was moved from Hoopa because of the nearby wildfires, the Crusaders cruised to a comfortable win with both lines setting a physical tone from the opening play.
They constantly pressured the Hoopa offense while scoring five touchdowns on their opening six possessions of the game.
And no one had a bigger impact than Simoni, who was outstanding on both sides of the ball, rushing for 166 yards and a pair of TDs on nine carries and also finishing with three sacks from his defensive end position, as well as four tackles for a loss.
“Wyatt Simoni was the best player on the field,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “He was amazing.”
Simoni scored on runs of five and 50 yards in the first quarter to help set the early tone.
Two young quarterbacks also impressed for the Crusaders, with sophomore Luke Brunton and freshman Trenten Hagler splitting time at the position.
Brunton threw for a pair of TDs and had one interception, connecting with another sophomore Isaiah Wolfe on a 22-yard scoring play in the first quarter and with sophomore receiver Michael Manzi on a 15-yard scoring play in the second half.
“I was very happy with the play of our two young quarterbacks,” Tomlin said. “They both did things that made them successful and also things they’ll learn from.”
Hagler completed 6 of 10 passes for 102 yards and also had 43 yards rushing on three carries, while Brunton completed 5 of 7 passes for 72 yards and the two TDs.
Transfer Luis Malko-Allen ran in for a TD in his first game for the Crusaders, while freshman Garrett Shanahan also had an immediate impact and looks like a playmaker after pulling in an interception on defense and three catches at receiver.
It was the play of both lines, however, that really paved the way for the win.
On the other hand, it was a tough start to the season for the Warriors, who are rebuilding this year after graduating a large talented senior class from 2022.
“We’re pretty green,” head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings said. “It was a tough game for us.”
The performance, however, wasn’t without its bright spots, most notably the play of junior quarterback Brandon Romero, who had some big gains on the ground and scored his team’s only TD on a long run.
“He had an excellent game,” Tomlin said of Romero. “And he really competed hard for them.”
Romero is one of just four returners on this year’s Hoopa team, along with Rian Tracy, Trystan Billings and Misath Childs.
Trystan Billings also had a good game for the visitors, coming away with an interception and a fumble recovery on defense.
The Warriors have just 17 players on the varsity squad this fall and their preparation has been affected by the nearby wildfires, which has forced them to travel to the coast to practice at times.
They also did not get the opportunity to participate in last weekend’s scrimmage because they did not have the required 10 practices.
Defensively, Nathan Edwards, Jack Sylvia and Tracy led the team in tackles.
“Of our 17 players, 11 are either coming out for the first time or haven’t played in a few years,” the head coach said. “But I still believe in them. We just have a lot of work to do.”