Brother Martin’s electrifying second half fuels 55-24 state semifinal win at Carencro

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CARENCRO – Momentum swings in games occur all the time. Sometimes, they produce small gains while on other occasions, they produce huge advantages.

And then there are times when the dramatic and sudden change turns into an avalanche.

In Super Bowl XLIV, Sean Payton daringly called for an onside kick, a play titled “Ambush,” to start the second half with his team trailing Indianapolis. The Saints executed, recovered and the game changed dramatically as the Saints rallied to win.

Friday night at The Open Air Cro Dome in Carencro, Brother Martin had just rallied to take the lead in the third quarter when head coach Mark Bonis called for an onside kick.

Kicker Leyton Liuzza executed it perfectly, recovering the straight-ahead dribble himself.

Brother Martin scored again. After that, the 13th-seeded Crusaders kept on scoring.

The end result was a quick change and as Brother Martin ambushed Carencro 55-24 in the Select Division I semifinals in a game heard live on NASH ICON 106.1 FM.

It was sudden, and it was decisive. Carencro never recovered as Brother Martin, trailing by 10 points in the third quarter, closed the game on a 35-0 run.

Senior Torey Lambert was a big part of the story once again.

A Texas State commit, Lambert continued to carry the load and carry his team, rushing 24 times for 283 yards and five touchdowns, overcoming a lost fumble late in the second quarter. Lambert also caught two passes for 33 yards.

In his four playoff games, Lambert has been on fire, rushing 138 times for 951 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“It means a lot,” Lambert said. “We were awarded for preparation. Many others paved the way for us just to get this moment. Our offensive line did the job. I love our whole team. We’re all one unit, one person.”

It was a tale of two different halves.

Carencro dominated the football and much of the game in the first half, controlling the ball for 19 minutes and 54 seconds while Brother Martin had the ball for just four minutes and six seconds.

Still, the Bears carried just a 17-14 lead to halftime.

While Carencro was scoring on its first three possessions on long, time consuming drives, Brother Martin was staying close by scoring quickly on big plays.

Senior quarterback Chantz Ceaser, who had a big half, capped a 17 play, 80-yard drive, taking 8:43 off the clock on the opening possession of the game to give Carencro a 7-0 lead.

It took the Crusaders just three plays to tie it.

First, Lambert rambled 50 yards and two plays later, Lambert raced 15 yards for a score to make it 7-7 with 2:13 to play in the opening quarter.

Carencro (9-3) took a 10-7 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Jude Doucet, capping a nine play, 72-yard drive.

Brother Martin (9-5) fought back to take its first lead of the game, needing just five plays to go 65 yards with Lambert scoring on a 24-yard run to make it 14-10 with 8:26 to play in the half.

The Bears recaptured the lead on an 11-yard pass from Ceaser to Keevon George to complete a 10 play, 83-yard drive to make it 17-14.

Lambert then lost a fumble with Ethan Guidry recovering at the Brother Martin 18-yard line as Carencro had a golden chance to expand the lead.

The Brother Martin defense came up huge, getting a stop and Doucet missed a 29-yard field goal and it remained 17-14 at halftime.

Carencro had 40 offensive snaps to just 11 for Brother Martin in the half but led by just three points.

After getting a stop, Carencro took a two-score lead, driving 53 yards in eight plays with Kennon Ryan on an 8-yard run to make it 24-14 with 5:43 to play in the third quarter.

Then came the onslaught as the Crusaders scored 35 unanswered points in the final 17:43 of the contest.

On just the second play of the ensuing series, Clayton Lonardo faked to Lambert, kept it running wide left and outran the defense 64 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 5:22 to play in the third quarter.

Brother Martin finally forced the first Carencro punt of the game and quickly took the lead, going 97 yards in five plays with Lambert breaking an 84-yard touchdown run to make it 28-24 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

Then came the perfect onside kick by Liuzza.

“We’ve worked on it all year,” Bonis said. “Our former athletic director, Scott Williams, always nagged me on why don’t we every onside kick. I’m going to say I guess it was him prodding me every week about an onside kick. We thought we had something.”

It took Brother Martin just two plays to capitalize.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Lonardo struck again, scoring on a 46-yard pass from Seth Dazet to expand the lead to 35-24 with 11:51 to play in the game.

Brenden LeBlanc got a big sack on the next Carencro possession, forcing a punt.

Brother Martin continued to punish Carencro, driving 47 yards in seven plays with Lambert scoring on a 31-yard run to grow the advantage to 42-24 with 7:55 to play in the game.

The Bears went four-and-out on their next possession, failing on a desperate fourth-and-three at their own 27-yard line, giving the Crusaders the ball at point-blank range.

Four plays later, Lambert pounded it into the end zone from 18 yards out and it was 49-24 with 4:23 to play in the game.

Carencro had one final drive and reached the Brother Martin 14-yard line and on the final play of the game, Gregory Jackson picked off Ceasar and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown to account for the final margin.

To illustrate how dramatic the game changed in the second half, Carencro gained 253 yards to 131 for Brother Martin in the first half.

In the second half, the Crusaders outgained the Bears 291-164.

“I can’t describe how great a feeling this is, first of all for our kids, our staff, all of our alums” Bonis said. “It’s such a special feeling. It’s a testament to our program and our program principles. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity. Our team truly epitomizes our motto of ‘never say die’.”

Ceaser, who tore two ligaments and dislocated his knee in a gruesome injury on the first play of the second quarter of a 35-6 loss to Brother Martin in the 2021 regular season, proved he is all the way back.

Ceaser rushed 33 times for 159 yards and a touchdown and he completed 17-of-25 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

It was the second stirring comeback playoff win for Brother Martin.

The Crusaders trailed Woodlawn of Baton Rouge 20-0 before scoring 45 unanswered points in the opening round of the playoffs.

With the win, Brother Martin ended a streak of losing in the semifinals in four consecutive seasons.

With the win, the Crusaders have reached a state championship game for the first time since 1989.

Next week, Brother Martin will seek its second-ever state title and first since 1971 when the Crusaders take on District 9-5A rival John Curtis Christian next Saturday night, December 11 at 7 p.m.

“When alumni talk to you and give you their feedback, that’s valuable,” Lambert said. “They taught us to have fun. The opponent in the title game does not matter. We’re ready. Coach (Bonis) will have us ready. We’re going to execute.”

As the 13th seed, Brother Martin is the lowest seed to make the 2022 championship games of the 16 teams heading to the Caesars Superdome next weekend.

The third-seeded Patriots rallied to beat defending state champion and No. 2 seed Catholic of Baton Rouge 24-21 at Memorial Stadium.

John Curtis defeated Brother Martin 23-14 on October 28.

It will be the fourth time a pair of Catholic League teams will meet for a state championship.

Holy Cross downed Jesuit 14-6 in 1963, Brother Martin won its only state championship, beating St. Augustine 23-0 in the title game in 1971 and St. Augustine defeated Jesuit 13-7 in the 1978 championship game.

Brother Martin, which closed the regular season with three straight losses and limped into the playoffs 5-5, has ripped off four straight playoff wins, playing its best at the right time and realizing the potential that was there from the start of the season.

It was an emotional win for Bonis, who has had a very trying, challenging three years.

In 2019, Bonis nearly perished after losing a semifinal game to Archbishop Rummel, Bonis underwent emergency coronary artery surgery to repair a ruptured abdominal aorta, saving his life.

Bonis’ son, “Mighty Marc,” was born with omphalocele, a rare birth defect in which the intestines and/or other organs are situated outside the body due to a hole in the navel area.

Given a very small chance to survive, “Mighty Marc” has lived up to his nickname, overcoming the odds and surviving surgery to correct the abnormality.

While one of his daughters was battling the flu this week, his wife, Rebecca, was battling a serious illness which saw her make two separate trips to the hospital.

The coach dealt with it and dealt with the challenge of getting his team ready to play a big game and his team came up big when it mattered most.

“This is the best feeling besides being married and having my kids,” an emotional Bonis said.

Despite a good start, the Bears were trapped, ambushed by a hot team playing loose and playing well for a coach who has broken through to a title game for the first time after six semifinal appearances.

FINAL SCORE
BM 7 7 14 27 55
CAR 7 10 7 0 24

Scoring:
1st QTR
CAR—Chantz Ceaser, 5-yard run (Jude Doucet kick)
BM—Torey Lambert, 15-yard run (Leyton Liuzza kick)

2nd QTR
CAR—Jude Doucet, 25-yard field goal
BM—Torey Lambert, 24 yard run (Leyton Liuzza kick)
CAR—Keevon George, 11 yard pass from Chantz Ceaser (Jude Doucet kick)

3RD QTR
CAR—Kennon Ryan, 4-yard run (Jude Doucet kick)
BM—Clayton Lonardo, 64-yard run (Leyton Liuzza kick)
BM—Torey Lambert, 84-yard run (Leyton Liuzza kick)

4th QTR
BM—Clayton Lonardo, 46-yard pass from Seth Dazet (Leyton Liuzza kick)
BM—Torey Lambert, 18-yard run (Leyton Liuzza kick)
BM—Gregory Jackson, 95-yard interception return

Statistics:
Rushing:
BM 344, CAR 189

Passing:
BM 78, CAR 228

Total Yards:
BM 422, CAR 417

Penalties:
BM 1 for 5 yards, CAR 3 for 25 yards

Turnovers:
BM 1, CAR 0

Sacks:
BM 2, CAR 0

Individual Rushing:
BM—Torey Lambert 24 carries for 280 yards and 5 touchdowns, Clayton Lonardo 1 carry for 64 yards and 1 touchdown

CAR—Chantz Ceaser 33 carries for 159 yards and 1 touchdown, Cashmire Batiste 5 carries for 27 yards, Kennon Ryan 1 carry for 3 yards and 1 touchdown, Chantz Babineaux 1 carry for 0 yards

Individual Passing:
BM—Seth Dazet 5-of-6 for 78 yards and 1 touchdown

CAR—Chantz Ceaser 17-of-25 for 228 yards and 1 touchdown, 1 interception, Chantz Babineaux 0 for 1

Individual Receiving:
BM—Clayton Lonardo 2 catches for 49 yads and 1 touchdown, Torey Lambert 3 catches for 29 yards

CAR—Kendrick Bernard 5 catches for 62 yards, Chantz Babineaux 4 catches for 61 yards, Kameron Cyprien 3 catches for 49 yards, Keevon George 1 catch for 11 yards and 1 touchdown, Austin Dyson 1 catch for 8 yards

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