FOOTBALL ROUNDUP — A thrilling night for the H-DNL

Photos by Taunya Caldwell Brunton – The Crusaders celebrate their win in Southern California on Friday night.

What a thrilling night for H-DNL football.

After a pair of blowouts on the opening weekend of the Little 4 a week ago, Friday night served up a thriller between league leaders Arcata and Ferndale at the Redwood Bowl, with the Tigers battling back from a three-touchdown deficit to pull out a 32-27 win over Ferndale.

Also in the Little 4, the Hoopa Warriors ended a three-game losing streak with a 22-16 win over McKinleyville in Hoopa.

The Warriors improved to 1-1 in the Little 4 and 2-4 overall, while the Panthers dropped to 0-2 and 0-6.

The St. Bernard’s Crusaders also won a thriller in Southern California, denying Segerstrom a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 90 seconds remaining in the game.

The Crusaders would hold on for a 28-26 win, quickly getting back to winning ways after suffering their first loss of the season a week ago.

The Fortuna Huskies also had a good night, ending a two-game losing streak with an emphatic 40-7 win at Healdsburg.

The Huskies improved to 5-2, while the Crusaders improved to 5-1.

Wyatt Simoni, who is one of this week’s Humboldt Sports Athletes of the Week, was sensational once again for St. Bernard’s, as was the offensive line and a defense that was missing three starters.

“What an amazing game,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “I’m just proud of our next-man-up mentality.”

Simoni ran in for a pair of touchdowns and also scored a TD on a 65-yard fumble recovery.

Michael Manzi added a 75-yard TD reception from quarterback Luke Brunton.

But it was the offensive line of left tackle Kyler Smith, left guard Hunter Floyd, center Lane Ford, right guard Ulysses Bailey and right tackle Jonathan Cortez that really set the tone and paved the way to victory.

“I want to praise our offensive line for their effort tonight,” Tomlin said. “Those five guys just took over in the second half.”

The Crusaders trailed 20-14 at halftime, but pulled ahead as their defense shut out the home team for much of the second half.

The unit was missing influential starters Ethan Hagler, Aaiden Burris and Luis Malko-Allen, none of whom made the trip because of injuries, but the coaches changed things up at halftime and the adjustments worked, most notably switching Ford to middle linebacker, where he excelled.

And once again, Simoni was sensational.

“What can you say about Wyatt Simoni,” Tomlin said. “In my mind he’s the best player in California with what he means to our team.”

The St. Bernard’s players will remain in Southern California tomorrow where the team will take in the USC and Arizona game.

In JV action on Friday night, Fortuna defeated Healdsburg 55-13, Hoopa beat McKinleyville 68-6 and Ferndale got the better of Arcata.

We’ll have more on the Huskies’ varsity win and the Hoopa/McKinleyville game on Saturday.

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