Will Omey and Lane Thrap continued to set a blistering pace on offense on Saturday, but the real story in St. Bernard’s dominating 49-8 win over Arcata at Crusader Field was the team defense.
Thrap caught four touchdown passes in the win, all from Omey, who also ran in for two.
For good measure, Thrap added an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown, the highlight of a very impressive St. Bernard’s defensive performance that saw the Crusaders hold a potent Tigers offense in check for much of the game.
Despite the final score, the Tigers can take plenty of positives from the game, which was competitive through the opening two quarters, with the home team leading 20-8 at halftime.
The second half, however, was a different story, as the Crusaders racked up 29 unanswered points on the way to ending the game as a contest long before the final buzzer.
It was St. Bernard’s third straight commanding win to start the season, and the Crusaders have outscored their three opponents by a combined 124-29.
“My guys came out ready to compete today. My guys battled for four quarters,” head coach Matt Tomlin said. “I’m proud of these dudes.
“They got challenged for a couple of weeks by the opponent talking about us, and they prepared in practice and they came on a mission today to remind people who the kings are, and I’m very proud of my kids.”
In particular the Crusaders defense, which set the tone throughout.
Big day for Hagler, Fonoti
Seniors Justin Hagler and Talimaivao Fonoti were instrumental in helping set the tone, on both sides of the ball.
Hagler came up with numerous key catches to keep drives alive and has developed into a clutch performer, while Fonoti continues to block about as well as anyone in the area, opening up big holes for his teammates.
“I thought every big catch in a pressure situation today was Justin Hagler,” Tomlin said. “When we needed 10 or 15 or 20 yards for a first down, Hagler was amazing. He made some big time catches with two guys on him.”
The senior playmaker gives the Crusaders big-time offensive options on both sides of the field.
“Those guys on opposite sides of the field from each other really complement each other well,” Tomlin said of Hagler and Thrap.
Hagler came up with a pivotal catch on the Crusaders’ second drive of the game on a fourth and six to set up the opening score, a 16-yard TD pass from Omey to Thrap.
Omey added the second TD late in the first quarter on a short run to give the home team a 14-0 lead.
Thrap’s second TD catch made it 20-0 a little more than two minutes into the second quarter, before an Alberto Iskra interception gave the visitors possession at the SB 10-yard line.
The visitors opened their account four plays later when quarterback Matt Robinson and receiver Raven Perez combined on a 10-yard scoring pass.
Robinson then found Niko Zambras on a passing play for the two-point conversion.
“I thought the first half was really solid. We took them out of everything they wanted to do,” Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said. “In the second half our guys just exerted so much physically, and they were exhausted.
“But overall there was no quit in us.”
Thrap widened the gap midway through the third quarter capping an 80-yard drive with a great individual effort on his way to the end zone on a 33-yard reception.
Arcata answered with a nice drive, but turned the ball over on downs deep in SB territory, and the Crusaders immediately marched all the way to the end zone again, with Thrap pulling in a 38-yard scoring catch off a brilliant scramble by Omey to set up the pass.
The senior quarterback added a 15-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, before Thrap closed out the scoring on a pick six just as the Tigers were threatening.
Raven Perez had a big game for the Tigers at receiver, coming up with some key receptions.
“He made some timely catches for us and had a hell of a touchdown,” Jones said.
The Tigers, who dropped to 0-2, will look to learn from the experience as they move forward, and the coach believes his players will benefit from playing teams as good as the Crusaders.
“That’s what we like, we want the competition,” he said. “We’ll regroup, we’ll figure it out, we’ll get better.”
The Tigers play at Willits next weekend, while the Crusaders travel to Oregon to play at La Salle.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.