Catholic High made the playoffs 22 times in head football coach Dale Weiner’s first 24 years at the school.
What is the silver anniversary season for Weiner has turned into the year where a silver lining is what the Bears are now clinging to.
“The No. 1 thing you learn from this year is that nothing is guaranteed,” Weiner said. “You learn from winning, but the lessons you learn from losing are deeper. A loss leads to more self-analysis. We’ve been through that and a lot of other things. These guys never give up. They believed in themselves and they have the chance every team wants: the chance to win a district title and make the playoffs.”
Catholic (3-6, 3-1) hosts second-ranked Dutchtown High (9-0, 4-0) for a District 5-5A game that helps close the season Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
After starting the season 0-5, the Bears are a huge underdog in their biggest game of the year.
The scenario is simple. A win would tie the Bears and the Griffins for the District 5-5A title, giving Catholic an automatic playoff berth. The Bears don’t rank high enough in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s power ratings to get in the playoffs any other way.
While skeptics look at the long odds, the Bears look at what they’ve gained, kicker-punter Guy Hymel said.
“I’ve been part of other teams here at Catholic, like our baseball team that won a championship, and none of them are as close as this one,” Hymel said. “It was hard, especially when we started 0-5. At school, people would ask me what was going on and what was wrong.
“I told them I’m the kicker, and I couldn’t speak for the offense or defense. But I knew those guys were out there working their butts off every day. We all believed something good would happen, but we didn’t know when.”
Hymel is part of a senior class that includes linebacker John Michael Morain and offensive lineman Raphael Mozie.
Weiner calls what happened as the season unfolded after Catholic lost its season opener to Zachary 29-22 as a “perfect storm.”
“This is not the most physically talented team we’ve had ,and these guys know that,” Weiner said. “But the Zachary game showed us they had the capabilities to play with just about anybody. We didn’t have a lot of experience on offense, and injuries forced us to play some guys we normally wouldn’t have. Through it all, these guys remained positive.”
Morain admits staying positive was not easy at times.
“Coach Weiner challenged us to stay positive,” Morain said. “He says we helped keep him positive. His attitude and the attitudes of the other coaches made a difference for us. They helped us correct mistakes and get better. Nobody dwelled on the negative.”
When Catholic entered District 5-5A play winless, Weiner made sure the Bears understood that they were not alone. Weiner, who has a career record of 271-95, pointed out that no other team had won a district game. District 5-5A was a fresh start.
“Losing was tough on us,” Mozie said. “Even though we were losing, we could tell we were improving.
“There were games where we should have played better. We make mistakes. But we still loved playing the game.”
The way the season evolved has given the Bears added depth and given a group of youngsters their chance to grow into starting roles.
Running back Khalil Thomas is a junior. Quarterbacks Nick Coomes (sophomore) and Ben Braymer (junior) will also be back.
There is no talk of next year even though Dutchtown is ranked second and has a talented squad led by senior safety-running back Landon Collins.
“They’re a great team, and they’ve got Landon Collins, and he’s a great player,” Morain said. “We’re relying on each other.”