St. Bernard's trailed early after a start plagued by turnovers and penalties, but the Crusaders then scored 31 straight points to pull away from East Nicolaus, on their way to the 45-29 victory in the CIF 6-AA North regional bowl game.
Will Omey's third rushing touchdown of the first half gave St. Bernard's a 28-21 lead at the half, just minutes after it trailed 21-14 following a 40-yard touchdown reception down the left seam from East Nicolaus quarterback Gavin McAuliff to receiver Mitch Barker. The East Nicolaus score, however, came following an interception by Omey, his second of the first half. As the Crusaders cleaned their game up from that point forward, momentum swung clearly in their direction.
"Will put his team on his back and carried them to the state championship game," said St. Bernard's coach Matt Tomlin. "He was tremendous with his passing and running, and now he gets showcase that on the big stage."
St. Bernard's extended its lead four minutes into the third quarter, when Omey froze the outside linebacker with a pump fake, enabling Lane Thrap to blow past the defender down the right seam for an easy 45-yard touchdown and a 35-21 Crusader advantage. The Spartans then fumbled on their next offensive play, recovered by St. Bernard's at the East Nicolaus eight-yard line after the ball had been dropped, kicked and batted backwards. The turnover resulted in a 25-yard field goal for Guillermo Perez-Estrada, pushing the Crusaders' lead to 38-21.
St. Bernard's sealed the win midway through the fourth quarter, when Omey found sophomore speedster Damarte Prudhomme for a 48-yard touchdown on a skinny post, where Prudhomme caught the ball in stride and then split the East Nicolaus safeties with a burst of speed for the final Crusader points of the night. Omey finished the night with 325 passing yards and three touchdowns, to go with 147 yards and three more scores on the ground. He has now accounted for 55 touchdowns this season. Prudhomme added six catches for 150 yards and two scores, also scoring on a 54-yard reception in the first quarter, while Thrap had four catches for 120 yards.
"Damarte and Lane were both explosive throughout the game, making big plays for us when we needed them most," Tomlin added.
With the win, St. Bernard's advances to face South Torrance for the CIF 6-AA title. The Crusaders won a state bowl game back in 2015, the only other time they have reached this stage.