This year’s Division I playoffs have turned into déjà vu for Brother Martin. First, they defeated McKinley 28-12 last Friday night in a much tougher game than last year’s 42-0 opening round romp.
Now, the Crusaders travel to Scotlandville for the second year in a row. Last year, the Crimson and Gold lost in the semifinals to the Hornets 18-16 in a game that came down to a failed two-point conversion in the last minute. This season, the teams meet in the quarterfinals – the fourth year in a row the Crusaders have reached the final eight.
Coach Mark Bonis summarizes the Hornets this way. “They’re 9-1 and ranked #3 for a reason. Defensively, they return everybody. They’ve got the best safety we’ll see all year – #1 Kelvin Joseph. He covers ground and is physical. Linebacker-wise, they’re very athletic. On the defensive front, they return their big nose guard from last year, Naajee Robinson, who’s listed at 280.”
Although Scotlandville graduated their quarterback from last year, the replacement makes them a more complete offense. “He’s a dual-threat, but they’ve also got two or three good running backs. As soon as you load the box, the quarterback can throw to some capable receivers.” The bottom line: “We’re going to have to play one of our best football games of the year.”
Bonis doesn’t believe in making wholesale changes on offense or defense this late in the season. “Sure, there are some new wrinkles here and there. But it’s taken you 12-13 games to get good at what you do. If you try to do something completely different, you’re not going to have a whole bunch of success. For us, it comes down to better execution of what we’re doing offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game.”
“All our plays have options. We have three simple runs. Every other run has a pass tied to it. We have conversions within those plays based on coverages. Even though we have youth and experience, we have also gotten better during the year. That can be said especially the offensive line. I was real proud of them last week. We lost Jared Gaudet against Jesuit, but his replacement had a really good game last week. You don’t have to be a team that runs the majority of the time. But when you have to run the ball, you have to be successful.”
Mark agrees that his club is playing better than their number #6 seed. “I’m really optimistic about the fact that we haven’t played a complete game. We had a good week of preparation. I want our boys to play the best football game they can play. We’ve yet to put it together in all three phases. We played at Scotlandville last year. I don’t think anyone will get lost in the moment. There’s always a little bit of nervousness but it’s good nervousness. If we execute the way we need to, we’ll put ourselves in a position to win.”