It’s probably a good thing Corey Lambert listened to his wife.
It was three years ago when Jenny Lambert offered some words of wisdom to her offensive-minded husband, who had just been named head coach at his alma mater, John Ehret.
“She told me that you have to be able to have a defense,” Lambert recalled. “She told me that I can’t always outscore people. You have got to get a defense to stop people.
“So for my three years here, I’ve been trying to put a defense in place. I think we have finally done that.”
Ehret recorded its third shutout of the season Friday night with a 61-0 victory over Helen Cox.
The Patriots (7-1), No. 9 in The New Orleans Advocate Large Schools Super 10, have allowed just 80 points this season. That’s the second fewest points among all large schools in the greater New Orleans area. (Only Destrehan has given up fewer points with 68.)
Lambert hasn’t come up with any fancy nicknames yet to describe his ball-hawking defense.
Here are a few suggestions:
The Red Brick Wall seems fitting, especially when they sport the bright new jerseys purchased by alum Kordell Stewart. Or maybe the Monsters of Marrero. Or perhaps A Nightmare on Patriot Street, which seems just as fitting with Halloween approaching and just how scary the defense can be at times.
“These kids are lean, they can run, and they are aggressive,” is how Lambert described his defense, which has forced 24 turnovers. “We cause havoc.”
The Patriots held Cox to just 72 yards of offense, including minus-14 rushing yards.
“Stat-wise, yes that was our best defensive game,” said co-defensive coordinator Bryan Crayton. “But just as far as defensive play, I would say the St. Amant game was our best one.”
Crayton shares defensive coordinator duties with Del Lee, who came to the school from Landry-Walker this year.
The cohesiveness of the defensive staff has done wonders for the staff, Lambert said.
But it also helps to have plenty of talent.
Junior linebacker Michael Divinity, who is being recruited by basically every school in the country, leads in sacks and tackles for loss.
Senior cornerback Taris Shenall, a Tulane commit, has five interceptions. Jarius Wallace is right behind him with four.
Dejon Harris is the leading tackler, and is joined at linebacker by Divinity and Anthony Hamilton.
Robert Green, Dwayne Fisher and Kerry Starks make up the defensive front, while Kardale Clark, Tarique Fisher and Terrell Bailey join Shenall and Wallace in the secondary.
“Everybody does their job,” Divinity said. “The main thing though is it’s more than just a football team. We’re like a brotherhood.”
Divinity has been a key piece in getting Ehret back to prominence after going winless in 2012. They followed that up by winning nine games and a district title and reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2013.
“One of the big keys for us was getting the guys from Marrero to stay here and go to school here,” Lambert said.
Divinity was one of those guys. He played at John Curtis in ninth grade before returning to his hometown school.
While opposing coaches try to figure out how to solve the Patriots defense, there are others who are still trying to figure out just how good Ehret is.
The jury is still out. Ehret has yet to pick up a single vote in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll.
Ehret’s shutouts (against Cohen, Salmen and Cox) came against teams who have combined to win just one game. Ehret is the only team in District 8-5A with a winning record. If the season ended last week, the Patriots would have been the only 8-5A team to make the playoffs.
So will the Patriots, whose lone loss was to Brother Martin (33-24), be battle-tested enough when the playoffs roll around?
Lambert thinks so. To help, he practices his first-team offense against his first-team defense every practice.
“I can tell you that we have kids that are going to fight the whole game,” Lambert said. “Are we battle-tested? I think we are. Does the schedule make us battle-tested. No it doesn’t. But when we line up and play football, I know I have guys that will fight for four quarters and not give up. ... I knew this group was hungry, but they are doing beyond what my expectations were for this year.”
And only three of the starters are seniors.
So who could blame Lambert for the sly grin on his face when asked about 2015?