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Bro. Neal’s Chat with Coach Bonis #1: Offseason, Jamboree, East Ascension Preview

Brother Neal Coach Bonis Chat Twitter

September 14, 2021

Chat with Coach Bonis #1: Offseason, Jamboree, East Ascension Preview

by Brother Neal Golden, S.C. (CJ ’57)

After a great season in 2020 despite the COVID-19 challenge, the Crusader coaches, players, and fans looked forward to a more normal 2021. But COVID still lurked during the summer and then a witch named Ida caused a two-week school hiatus.

“The first time we were able to get everyone together for football,” says head coach Mark Bonis, “was July 27. We had a good camp and two-a-days. Things were coming together. But just as we were about to have our scrimmage with Covington, we lost 27 players to COVID protocols because of only three cases. Fortunately, those three experienced only mild symptoms.”

After two weeks of school, “we were starting to get back to normal with that team feeling again. Some young guys were doing a good job for us, and we were feeling good about creating some depth. Then the storm hit right after we played the jamboree against De La Salle.”

Brother Martin won the jamboree game 14-7. “We went into the game with a lot of starters out. That we had success against the team that finished as the state runner-up in Division II last year says a lot about our kids. The defense played very well. De La Salle’s offense didn’t score their touchdown, which came when our quarterback was hit, the ball flew into the air, and was returned for a touchdown.”

Turnovers are a big concern. “In our scrimmage and jamboree, we threw several interceptions and put the ball on the ground twice.”

Bonis evaluated all three phases of his team. “Last year our defense was very young. We gave up some big plays due to not having summer workouts because of COVID.”

But this year’s defense is more experienced with diplomas from the School of Hard Knocks. “We’re most versatile on the back end with guys that can play multiple positions. I think the world of our defensive line, but we need to build depth.”

“Offensively, we graduated the whole offensive line. However, three guys who were in the rotation last year are back, and we’re expecting big things from them.” Senior Garrett Mmahat returns for his third year as the starting quarterback. Junior Torey Lambert has been moved from defensive back to running back where he’ll split time with senior Jordan Thomas. “We have eight guys in the receiver rotation, but nobody has separated himself from the pack other than junior Clayton Lonardo and senior Julian Oubre.”

“We won the special teams phase of the jamboree despite a long kickoff return we gave up. Our preparation over the summer was apparent. But we’ve got to continue to get better in all three phases as the season goes on.”

The team spent the summer preparing for what was certainly one of the most challenging schedules in the state starting with road games at St. Thomas More and West Monroe. “We believed that schedule would speed up the maturity process.” Now those two games have been canceled.

The Ponchatoula game that was scheduled for this Friday night has been replaced by a game against East Ascension at the Dutchtown High School stadium. As you can imagine, that change has created many hectic days for the coaching staff. “We found out Friday. We were given permission to bring the team in on that day to start preparing for East Ascension. We utilized Friday and Saturday to bring our guys back to speed when it comes to conditioning after being off for 14 days. We also made corrections after watching the film from the De La Salle game.

“Saturday, we started preparing specifically for East Ascension. Our offensive coaches stayed until 4:00 a.m., and we had practice at 8:00 a.m. Our staff is a great group of men. This program and these kids mean the world of them. Five of our coaches are former Brother Martin players. They’re a mix of younger guys and older coaches. Their dedication says a lot about our program and our school as an institution.”

The rain this week from hurricane Nicholas sent the team into the gym for Monday’s practice. But Tuesday the Crusaders were back on the field despite the rain. “After being off so long, we couldn’t have two gym practices in a row.”

East Ascension is talented offensively. “They’re very big up front. They depend heavily on their two running backs who are explosive. We’ll have our hands full. They also have explosive ability at the receiver spots, but they’re young there.”

“Defensively, they’re a 3-4 unit that returns a lot of players from last year. They like to put more hats in the box than you can block, and man you up in the secondary. It’ll be a big challenge for our receivers to gain separation when running their routes.”

“They have a good kicker and a good punter. They’ll be a great challenge for us. The biggest thing for us to overcome is that East Ascension played a game Week 1, losing to a good Scotlandville team 38-20, although the game was closer than the score indicates.”

Bonis admits, “I love going on the road.” Let’s hope that the trip to Dutchtown will produce happy memories.

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