Walker: Undefeated Brother Martin trying to stay under radar _lowres

Advocate Photo by KYLE ENCAR --Brother Martin running back Jared West tries to outruns St. Aug's Shelby Lavergne (left) and Theron Williams in a game last month.

Can I get a show of hands of everyone who had Brother Martin at 6-0 at this point of the season?

Nope, me either.

But here we are, just over halfway through the season, and the Crusaders are still perfect.

They are one of six local undefeated teams, joining nationally ranked Rummel, along with Destrehan, Newman, Riverside and Northlake Christian.

Based on last season, those other five unbeatens aren’t quite as surprising as Brother Martin.

Collectively, those other five schools went a combined 44-6 during the 2013 regular season.

Brother Martin, meanwhile, went 4-6 in the regular season last year and finished 4-7.

They ended last season on a three-game losing streak and lost seven of their last nine games.

But what a difference a year (and a hungry group of seniors) has made on Elysian Fields Avenue.

“I’m just really happy for our guys,” Brother Martin coach Mark Bonis said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team who have been playing for three or four years. We have struggled the last couple years. We always told them it was a process and to keep believing. Our seniors last year and the year before that helped lay the foundation for this program where it is right now.”

Senior running back Jared West is one of those seniors for the Crusaders, ranked No. 6 in The New Orleans Advocate’s Large School Super 10 and eighth in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll.

“We came out this summer with the same mindset,” said West, who leads the team in rushing with right at 900 yards. “We have a very senior-laden team, and we wanted to win really bad. We just came out and worked hard every day.”

So far, so good.

This time last week, Brother Martin’s biggest win of the season was a convincing 41-20 road win at Franklinton, which isn’t the easiest place to go and win a game. (It is the only blemish of the season for the Demons, currently ranked No. 6 in Class 4A in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association poll.)

But then the Crusaders picked up a more eye-opening win on Saturday, beating St. Augustine 41-29 in the Catholic League opener for both teams. It was just the type of win the school was craving to cap off a week that one school official said gave the campus a “big -game buzz” that hadn’t been felt on campus for years.

It was their first win over the Purple Knights since a 36-22 victory in 2011. The 6-0 start is the best start since the 2008 squad that went 8-0 in the regular season.

“Six-and-0 feels good,” said Bruce Jordan-Swilling. “People can actually respect us now.”

The Crusaders aren’t winning with a roster filled with five-star recruits, although two-way star Jordan-Swilling, just a sophomore, very well could be on his way to becoming one.

West, quarterback Jake Broggi and safety Roderic Teamer are leading the way.

“This group of seniors is great,” Bonis said. “They are throwback football players. It’s that blue collar mentality. They are not backing down. If I were in a fight, I would love these seniors to have my back.”

Before last week, the Catholic League race looked like it was going to indeed be a fight, a 6-team battle royal to the end.

But after the first week of Catholic League play, it looks more like a three-team race between Rummel, Jesuit and yes, Brother Martin. The three teams won their games (against Shaw, Holy Cross and St. Aug, respectively) by an average margin of 32 points.

The Crusaders are probably the least talked about among the three, but the players don’t mind one bit.

“We like being under the radar,” West said. “It gives us more confidence week in and week out. We are not getting into that. We are just trying to be 1-0 every week.”

And that looks highly possible the next two weeks. The Crusaders play Holy Cross on Friday at Tad Gormley. After that, they play what looks like a winnable game against Shaw. That would put Brother Martin at 8-0 before closing the regular season out against Jesuit and Rummel, the two teams picked by most to win the Catholic League.

Not that Bonis is concerned about the naysayers who didn’t figure his Crusaders into the equation.

“I just care about our kids and how they are playing,” he said. “They are starting to build confidence. They have bought into everything we’re doing. Since I have been here, it’s been a process. They have bought in and believed and are now seeing things come into fruition.”

Saturday sure helped. Just ask the players.

“I think with this (St. Aug) game everybody notices we can beat good teams,” Jordan Swilling said. “I think people may look at this one and say ‘OK, they’re ready now.”

Yep, everyone is taking notice now.