Brother Martin’s defense has been the story for the Crusaders so far this season shutting out its first two opponents, and the unit continued its success Friday at Ponchatoula with the offense following suit.
The night got off to a great start with senior linebacker Trevor Tate intercepting LSU commitment T.J. Finley on the second play from scrimmage, which was the first of three forced turnovers for the Crusaders on the night.
The offense capitalized five plays later on a 5-yard touchdown run by Chris Smith, and the rout had begun as Brother Martin rolled to a 45-17 victory at “The Swamp.”
“Tonight was one of our better nights playing a complete game in all three phases,” Brother Martin coach Mark Bonis said. “Our defense really played well last week and the offense left some points out there, but in all three phases tonight, the things that we worked to improve this week, we saw that improvement and we’re excited about that.”
Brother Martin’s (3-0) offense was significantly sharper Friday night after scoring just 10 points in a win over Carver last week.
The Crusaders made a 35-point improvement while rolling up 431 yards of offense in a fairly balanced attack. The 1-2 punch of senior running back Smith and junior Jaylon Spears continues to be effective, and the duo accounted for 225 yards with four touchdowns on 23 touches against Ponchatoula (1-2).
Sophomore quarterback Garrett Mmahat also had a solid outing completing seven of his 13 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and everything starts up front for the Crusaders with a young group that saw plenty of action last season.
“We had good practices all week and my lineman worked their tails off,” said Smith, who finished with 14 carries for a team-high 81 yards rushing with two scores while hauling in one pass for 18 yards. “They opened the holes for me and I just had to (get the job done).”
“We had really good practices this week,” said junior center Arturo Garcia echoing Smith’s sentiments. “We have Chris and Jaylon as a deadly duo…and it’s awesome (having Smith and Spears in the backfield). We do what we’ve got to do and we know they’re going to fill the gaps and do what they’ve got to do.”
The entire team did its job as well, and Brother Martin jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead.
The Crusaders struck for their first big play of the game on their second drive when Mmahat hit Spears out of the backfield for a 44-yard pickup down to Ponchatoula’s 17-yard line. Mmahat then completed his second straight pass on the next play finding senior receiver John Louis over the middle for a 14-0 lead with 5:04 left in the first after Jack Landry’s extra point.
Ponchatoula responded with a 25-yard field goal by Jake Leitz on its next drive, but still couldn’t slow down Brother Martin as they covered 57 yards in 8 plays capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by Spears for a 21-3 lead with 7:48 left in the second.
The Green Wave then put together their best drive of the night when a 30-yard completion to Kody Finley followed by a 26-yard run by Braydon Johnson set up a 3-yard touchdown run for T.J. Finley. Leitz tacked on the extra point to make it 21-10 with 6:08 to play until halftime, but that was as close as Ponchatoula would get.
“We got whipped by a better team tonight,” said a candid Hank Tierney, Ponchatoula’s head coach. “They were able to run the ball and set up some nice play actions, and we couldn’t sustain anything on offense or pass block. Just a bad whipping by a good football team.”
Brother Martin went on to put 10 more points on the board before halftime to take a 31-10 advantage into the break. Mmahat tossed a short pass to the left side of the field to senior receiver Joe Delaney, who dodged a defender before going the distance for a 37-yard touchdown. The last three points came courtesy of Landry on a 31-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining until intermission.
The Crusaders’ first and only hiccup came on the first drive of the second half when Mmahat was picked off by sophomore cornerback Elijah Mitchell on a throw downfield. Brother Martin kept its composure, though, and responded with a 3-play, 38-yard touchdown drive following a short punt.
Spears did the honors this time around with a 28-yard run for the score, and the defense came up with another big play on the ensuing drive to get the ball back to its offense.
Ponchatoula looked like it was about to get something going completing a 19-yard pass to Kody Finley on the first play before another catch by Amorion Walker got the Green Wave what was about to be another first down. Walker was stripped, however, near midfield by senior athlete Davonn Moore, and the fumble was promptly scooped up by senior defensive back Adam Randolph and returned 26 yards to Ponchatoula’s 25-yard line.
If there was still any doubt about the outcome, Brother Martin put those to rest as Smith scored on the next play extending the lead to 45-10 with 7:21 left in the third.
“It’s just the work we put in at practice,” said Randolph regarding the defense’s success in particular. “We come to work every day in practice, it’s a business trip every Friday and we just get it done.”
Randolph also had an interception in the final seconds before halftime, and the Crusader defense held T.J. Finley to 143 yards passing while giving up just 258 yards total.
Most of those yards including a 57-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Gonzalez came with Brother Martin’s second-teamers on the field as their starters were able to hit the bench fairly early.
The Crusaders were able to remain relatively healthy as they head into Week 4, which will kick off Catholic League play with Brother Martin taking on Jesuit Friday at 7 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“Haven’t seen them yet,” said Bonis of the Blue Jays. “It’s all about the now for us. We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, make improvements and corrections from the film tomorrow, and get to work on Jesuit Saturday evening and Sunday morning.”
Brother Martin: 431 yards of total offense (235 rushing, 196 passing)
Ponchatoula: 258 yards of total offense (100 rushing, 158 passing)
Rushing: Chris Smith, 14-81, 2 TDs; Jaylon Spears, 6-72, 2 TDs; Troy Santa-Marina, 7-36; Torey Lambert, 5-32; Clayton Lonardo, 4-14; Garrett Mmahat, 3-3; Corey Lambert Jr., 1-(-3).
Receiving: John Louis, 2-55, 1 TD; Jaylon Spears, 2-54; Joe Delaney, 2-52, 1 TD; Chris Smith, 1-18; Julien Oubre, 1-17.
Passing: Garrett Mmahat, 7-13, 179 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Clayton Lonardo, 1/4, 17 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
Rushing: Jonathan Gonzalez, 5-65, 1 TD; Braydon Johnson, 6-46; Logan Johnston, 1-(-5); T.J. Finley, 14-(-6), 1 TD.
Receiving: Kody Finley, 3-52; Damontrell Osby, 5-27; Amorion Walker, 2-26; Logan Johnson, 2-15; Jacoby Mathews, 1-15; Steven Gauna, 1-12; Braydon Johnson, 1-6; Ashton Vining, 1-3; Jonathan Gonzalez, 1-2.
Passing: T.J. Finley, 15-26, 143 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs; Logan Johnston, 2/2, 15 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
Brother Martin — Chris Smith 5 run (Jack Landry kick), 9:10, 7-0.
Brother Martin — John Louis 17 pass from Garrett Mmahat (Landry kick), 5:04, 14-0.
Ponchatoula — Jake Leitz 25 field goal, 10:53, 14-3.
Brother Martin — Jaylon Spears 16 run (Landry kick), 7:48, 21-3.
Ponchatoula — T.J. Finley 3 run (Leitz kick), 6:08, 21-10.
Brother Martin — Joe Delaney 37 pass from Mmahat (Landry kick), 4:38, 28-10.
Brother Martin — Landry 27 field goal, 1:02, 31-10.
Brother Martin — Spears 28 run (Landry kick), 9:00, 38-10.
Brother Martin — Smith 25 run (Landry kick), 7:21, 45-10.
Ponchatoula — Jonathan Gonzalez 57 run (Leitz kick), 3:08, 45-17.
NEXT UP: Brother Martin begins Catholic League Friday at 7 p.m. facing Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium as the road team. Ponchatoula also begins district play in 6-5A Friday at 7 p.m. hosting Covington.