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Bro. Neal’s Chat with Coach Bonis #10: C.E. Byrd Review, Jesuit Preview

November 26, 2021

Chat with Coach Bonis #10: C.E. Byrd Review, Jesuit Preview

by Brother Neal Golden, S.C. (CJ ’57)

Four down, two to go in what Coach Mark Bonis calls writing “one of the best stories in LHSAA history for our kids and our fans.” The Crusaders, seeded #11 in Division I, defeated #3 Byrd in Shreveport last Friday night 45-14 to advance to the semifinals this Friday night at 6 PM at Tad Gormley Stadium against Jesuit.

Byrd took the opening kickoff and drove 83y for a touchdown. Before they scored their second and last touchdown, the Crusaders scored 45 points, including touchdowns on all five first-half possessions. Final score: 45-14.

Brother Martin needed just seven plays to tie the score, which came on RB Torey Lambert’s 24y run. He had another outstanding game with 164y and four touchdowns. So did backup Jordan Thomas (88y, one touchdown).

The passing attack also functioned like a well-oiled machine. QB Garrett Mmahat completed 8 of 13 passes for 172y and a touchdown.

Did Byrd employ a new offensive wrinkle on their first possession? Coach Bonis says no. “They run their offense very well. For me, it was more the speed of the game. You’re not glad when you give up a score, but it was good that it happened. We were able to see their offense and respond right away. Sometimes the opening score can cause you to panic, but our guys didn’t panic. They went out there and executed. Our defensive coaches made some adjustments, and we played really well after that.”

The Crusaders defeated Jesuit 20-14 September 24 in triple overtime. However, the game was later forfeited to the Blue Jays because of ineligible players.

“Both teams are a lot different than they were in Week 4,” says Bonis. “Coach Ryan Manale in his first year at Jesuit was still finding his way. They definitely know who they are now. This Jesuit team has a different personality from Week 4.

“We’re also different from when we first played them in our second game of the season. Besides Mmahat and OL Jayson Montgomery-Scott, not a lot of guys on offense had a lot of meaningful reps. Torey Lambert played defense last year. Jordan Thomas played in only two games. Clayton Lonardo played only a little bit. We’ve had a lot of guys on offense who’ve found themselves this year.”

After watching films of all the Jesuit games since we played them, Bonis says that “they utilize a lot more formations and more personnel groupings on offense. They’re also faster in executing their plays. Their defense has always been a big line-stunting team, but they do even more of that now.” Of course, most of that can be said about Brother Martin as well.

After enjoying a bye the first week of the playoffs, Jesuit defeated Curtis 14-13 last Friday. “To beat Curtis a second time in a season is quite a feat. It’s only been done one other time. That speaks volumes about how good a football team they are.”

Bonis has been pleased with the attitude of the team this week. “They’re locked in and focused. They’re ready to play. They’ve taken some things personally with everything that’s gone on. My staff has as well and rightfully so. But actions speak louder than words. So we need to go out there Friday night and put our best foot forward. No talking about anything. Our guys are ready to do that.”

The first meeting in September drew a large crowd, and Friday night should bring one of the largest crowds at Tad Gormley in recent years. “Our young men will be excited but not intimidated. This is what high school football is supposed to be. Enjoy the moment but don’t get lost in it. Do what you’ve been trained to do.”

“We’ve been here before, five semifinals in the last eight years. We’re amped up, but our players are trained to do their jobs. Play the next play no matter if good or bad happens on the previous play.”

“We’re playing the outright district champions. In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jesuit is the team we wanted to play. We have a good group of young men who are focused.”

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