Coach expects Crusaders to learn from tough league loss

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By Ray Hamill — St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin believes his players will benefit from a disappointing loss at Del Norte on Friday night, and that it will make them stronger going into the North Coast Section playoffs.

The Crusaders gave up 11 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 18-17 loss to the Warriors, who clinched at least a share of a fourth straight Big 4 title with the win.

“I think last night’s game will benefit us going into the playoffs,” Tomlin said. “You learn more from a loss.”

Many observers are calling it the game of the season and both head coaches agree it was a highly-entertaining showdown between two physical teams.

“It was a really good game,” said Del Norte head coach Darren LaFazio, who paid tribute to his seniors in particular for the way they battled on senior night, especially in the second half.

“We stayed with what we do and we grounded it out,” he added. “Our seniors stepped up. They really wanted this win.

“We needed to win this game and they knew it, and they played as hard as they could.”

The loss was the first in league play for the Crusaders, who can still finish in a three-way tie for the Big 4 championship if they beat Eureka next week and Del Norte loses at Fortuna.

“It was a really good high school football game between two good programs,” Tomlin said. “It was a very physical game, there was good tackling, it was just a good old-fashioned slug fest and I’m really proud of guys.”

Wyatt Simoni continued to carry a big workload for SB and he continued to impress.

The standout senior had 179 yards on the ground and ran in for a pair of touchdowns on 39 carries, while also finishing with about seven tackles on defense.

Fellow senior Johnny Cortez also impressed at nose guard and has been playing a pivotal role for his team this year, including making eight tackles on Friday, while Tyler Hinirchs showed once again why he is one of the best kickers in the H-DNL right now with a 34-yard field goal.

The difference in the game, according to Tomlin, was minimal.

“They just executed one more play than we did,” he said. “And that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The North Coast Section playoffs kick off in two weeks.

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