Crusaders win big in playoff opener, get ready for Analy

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from Saturday’s NCS game at Crusader Field.

By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders scored on all three of their second-quarter possessions to pull away from Terra Linda in the opening round of the North Coast Section Division-5 football playoffs on Saturday.

That included an incredible 67-yard TD run by senior Wyatt Simoni, who broke several tackles on his way to the end zone.

St. Bernard’s would go on to win the game 45-7 and advance to next weekend’s semifinals, where the No. 2 seeds will host No. 3 Analy with a place in the championship game on the line.

“It was a good team effort and I’m just very proud of the guys,” said head coach Matt Tomlin, who recorded his 100th career victory and his 97th with the Crusaders.

Some key injuries didn’t help matters for the Crusaders, who started the game without influential lineman Ulysses Bailey and lost quarterback Trenten Hagler and receiver Aaiden Burris during the game.

All three, according to Tomlin, will be re-evaluated on Monday.

Even without them, the No. 2 Crusaders had way too much in the tank for No. 7 Terra Linda. 

Simoni, who scored three touchdowns in the win, opened the scoring on a 20-yard TD run midway through the first quarter and would add a second touchdown on a six-yard run early in the second.

A safety, sandwiched in between those two scores, meant the Crusaders led 17-0 at that stage.

However, the visitors would score next to pull back within 10 when quarterback Garrett Pardo connected with receiver Casey Melniczek on a 65-yard TD pass just 90 seconds later.

But the home team would soon all but end the game as a contest and opened up a 31-7 lead before halftime when Simoni scored his 67-yard TD and sophomore quarterback Luke Brunton added a 34-yard TD run.

After holding the visitors scoreless on their first possession of the third quarter, the Crusaders went right back to work and stretched the lead to 31 points when Brunton threw a 16-yard TD to freshman receiver Garrett Shanahan in the corner of the end zone, with latter making a nice catch on the play.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Shanahan intercepted a Pardo pass to set up a sixth team TD, this one on a trick play, when junior running back Luis Malk-Allen took a pitch from Brunton and threw a 69-yard TD pass to Tyler Maples.

Check out Tyler Maples TD catch during Saturday’s game below …

Once again, St. Bernard’s set a physical tone in the trenches.

“I thought we were physical on the offensive and defensive lines,” Tomlin said. “And Simoni was amazing as he’s been all year, and it was nice to see some big plays by some other guys.”

Senior team captain Lawrence Renner also continued to be a force at middle linebacker, as he has been all season long.

“He continues to be a really strong presence for us at linebacker,” the head coach said.

Quentin Ikeya, who was just called up from the JVs for the playoffs, had an immediate impact at the varsity level and recovered an onside kick early in the game.

Simoni finished with 223 yards and the three TDs on 21 carries.

With the win, the Crusaders improved to 8-3.

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