If Mark Bonis had it his way, no one would be looking back on last year’s epic playoff game between Catholic-Baton Rouge and Brother Martin.
But with the way that game ended and the two teams set to meet again at 7 p.m. on Friday at Tad Gormley Stadium for a rematch in the Division I quarterfinals, the Crusaders’ coach knows his job is to keep his team focused on the here and now.
“It’s pretty ironic to see them again considering the circumstances, but we can’t focus on that,” said Bonis. “They have a new team, and they are as dangerous as ever. Our focus is to just do what we have to do to win tomorrow and not worry about all that other stuff.”
The No. 6-seeded Bears (7-3), on the other hand, will surely be motivated by last year’s devestating loss, which ended with a hook-and-lateral by Catholic on the game’s final play to cut Brother Martin’s lead down to two points.
Catholic handed off to running back Derrius Guice, who now plays at LSU, on the ensuing two-point conversion, but he was stuffed by the Crusaders defensive line to seal a 25-23 win on the road.
“That was a special moment for our guys and a special win for our program, no doubt about it,” Bonis said.
The Bears were the team with home-field advantage and the star running back last year, but No. 3 Brother Martin has turned the tables this time around.
The Crusaders compiled an 8-2 record this season behind the leadership of one of the most explosive offensive units in the state, averaging 48.2 points per game and only being held under 40 points in one game this season (a 36-0 blowout win over Holy Cross).
Crusaders running back Bruce Jordan-Swilling ran circles around the competition and led the New Orleans area with 1,884 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jake Broggi was the No. 1 passer in the area, completing 121-of-202 for 2,333 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Receiver Jeremy Singleton finished right behind Newman’s Elbert Thomas as the top pass-catcher in the area, ending the season with 45 catches for 889 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“The most special thing about those guys is they’ve been building toward this for the past three seasons,” Bonis said. “Their process and leadership was exactly the same before we started winning, but those guys have stuck with it and now they’re starting to see the benefits.”
While the Crusaders come in with many of the offensive accolades, the Bears haven’t taken much of a step back despite the loss of Guice.
After starting the season with two straight losses, Catholic reeled of seven wins in the final eight games of the year, led by new starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and returning starting quarterback Ian Brian.
Edwards-Helaire ended the season with 1,212 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns on 127 carries, while Brian completed 128 of his 205 passes for 1,478 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“(Coach Dale Weiner) has an unbelievable track record at that school, and he does a great job keeping those guys in contention year-in and year-out,” Bonis said. “We know they are a very good football team, and we’ll have to play a very good good game to beat them.
“The beauty for us, though, is that we feel we still haven’t even played our best yet. So we’ve worked on just trying to put together that complete game we’ve been waiting for and maybe that can propel us to where we hope to go.”