The Catholic High Bears Make Statement Win Of The Early Season Against The Edna Karr Cougars
by Jace LeJeune
The matchup at Memorial Stadium between Catholic High School and Edna Karr High School has been highly anticipated ever since the game was announced. The Cougars and the Bears have always been state championship contenders, but under the leadership of Brice Brown and Gabe Fertitta respectively, both programs have risen to the occasion as two of the most dominant in the state. Since Brice Brown has taken over as Edna Karr Head Coach in 2015, the Cougars have had a combined record of 52-6 including three straight Class 4A state championships from 2016-2018. Also, Coach Brown has led the Cougars to a 27 game winning streak and at least a state championship appearance each season during his tenure. On the other hand, the Catholic High Bears out of Baton Rouge have not been too shabby either under Gabe Fertitta. It seems like there were big shoes to fill after the resignation of legendary Head Coach Dale Weiner, but Coach Fertitta has filled those shoes exceptionally well. Since his first season as head coach in 2017, he has led the Bears to at least a state championship appearance. In his first season, the Bears won the Division I state championship with a 12-3 record and in his second season, finished with a Division I state championship runner up with a 12-2 record. As one can see, both of these teams have state championship aspirations this season. In 2019, both teams have already played a proven schedule. The Bears enter the game with an undefeated 3-0 record having previously defeated other state powers such as Parkview Baptist, U-High, and Arkansas state champion North Little Rock High School. The Cougars enter the game with a 2-1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of dominant power John Curtis High School. The one thing certain about the game was that somebody was going to make a statement. I talked to both coaches on how significant the game brings especially so early into the season.
“This game’s important because it’s the next game, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge what type of game it would mean for our program to play a caliber team with the history that Edna Karr has. It’s something that we intentionally went out of our way to schedule tough and different opponents in our non-district schedule. When you put the film on Edna Karr, you know you are going to see some special athletes that have speed, athleticism, and size, but to me when researching this game, I listened to a lot of their players give interviews after games to get a feel of what the pulse of their program was and I always heard about how great their culture was around their program. However, when you hear their players speak, you quickly realize that there is more to their program than just some guys that have great athleticism. Coach Brown and the coaching staff does a great job of having their guys buy in their program.”
“Catholic High is well coached and they are well disciplined. We cannot overlook them because they have some great athletes as well. We have to make sure we tackle in the open field. We are a little banged up tonight so we should see how our guys do.”
In speaking of athletes, there are plenty of great players on both sides of the football.
Catholic High School: (Gabe Fertitta)
Braelen Morgan: “Braelen Morgan (5-8, 155) has received an offer from Nicholls State, and there are a lot of people really interested in him aside from just Nicholls. He has been a dynamic playmaker for us in special teams. He is on kick coverage team, punt coverage team, kick return team, punt return team, and he plays wide receiver as well as running back. He has done a lot of things for us as a playmaker.”
Connor Finucane: “I don’t know all of the offers Connor Finucane (6-3, 290) has. I can’t keep track of them all. Recently, Cal-Berkley came in and offered him. A lot of other schools have shown interest in him. Right now, it appears that he is pretty set on going to Army-West Point. Louisiana Tech is another school that he has really considered as well. He is the kind of kid that will do his research and do his due diligence when picking a program to attend. Connor just found out that he was a National Merit semifinalist.”
Joseph Alexander: “Joseph Alexander (6-3, 292) is committed to Harvard. He has up to 20 scholarship offers. Some offers are from Power Five programs. Some come from mid tier DI programs, and others come from high academic programs. For Joe, it has always been a dream of his to go to Harvard and the football over there is good too so it will be a great opportunity for him. Joe was commended as a National Merit scholar.”
Brian Hibbard: “Brian Hibbard (6-1, 230) is committed to Rice. He has a couple of scholarship offers that are out there. For him, the opportunity that he has to go to Rice, get a free scholarship, and then also play the fullback position in an offense that will use the fullback, which is a little bit of a dying breed, is a great opportunity for him. He is built to play that position, and I think it will be a great fit for both Rice and Brian.”
Joshua Parker: “Joshua Parker (5-9, 190) has just recently received an offer from Southeastern. I fully expect that he will have more opportunities by the time the season is over. Josh is like our all-purpose back. He can not only run the football, but he can also pass protect. He is really good in small spaces because he can make people miss. He did that last week against U-High when he put a move on a guy right in the hole.”
L.C. Benjamin: “L.C. Benjamin (6-0, 215) is a guy that has been receiving some interest. He had bit of a rough night against U-High last week, but I think he will bounce back this week. He’s had to overcome a couple of knee injuries, and he has looked pretty good during the spring as well as leading up to the fall. I am still waiting on him to have that breakout moment and hopefully, tonight is when he can do that.”
“Other seniors that have been getting a little bit of attention are both our inside linebackers. They will get a chance to play at the D-II or D-III level. Beau Bacas (5-9, 160) is a senior secondary player that has the potential to play at the next level. Emory Duggar (6-1, 230) can also long snap at the next level.”
“In the past few years at quarterback, we have had Ian Brian, who was a two year starter, Zack Crawford, who was an one year starter, and Cameron Dartez, who was a two year starter. This year, Jackson Thomas (5-11, 175) will be an one year starter for us. Jackson has been working a long time and even has started a couple of games before when Cameron was out due to injury his sophomore year so he has had experience for us. As a player, he has just been dynamic and has a really strong arm. Of all the guys that we have had at quarterback, Jackson can improvise and create the best.”
“As far as underclassmen are concerned, George Hart is a tailback and is about 5-11, 200 pounds. All of our tailbacks bring a little something different to the game. George brings a downhill punishing element to our running game. Braelon Hobson (6-2, 225) has an offer from McNeese State at this point and is a guy that has continually grown in our program. Week in and week out, he just gets better each week. Michael Cerniauskas is a two year starter for us as a safety. He’s a junior at about 5-10, 185 pounds and plays the ball in the air really well. He actually has a couple of interceptions for us this season and is a strong tackler as well. Then, there is Landon O’Connor (5-11, 160), who is our backup quarterback and has been in a lot of plays for us this year. He is a really good runner at quarterback and so I expect him to get some reps at quarterback as well both running and throwing the ball whenever we can get him in there.”
Edna Karr High School: (Brice Brown)
Like Catholic High School, Edna Karr has a bunch of athletes that are getting collegiate attention.
Quarterback Leonard Kelly (5-11, 185) has received two offers from Nicholls State and Northwestern State.
Linebacker Dylan Smith (5-11, 230) has received two offers from Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Prairie View A&M.
Defensive end Joshua Randall (6-0, 205) has received an offer from Lamar University.
Defensive back Rodney Johnson (6-3, 190) has received offers from Southeastern, Nicholls State, and Texas Southern.
The senior class’ biggest recruit is cornerback Jamie Vance (6-1, 170), who recently de-committed from Arkansas. Edna Karr Head Coach Brice Brown gave his thoughts on Jamie’s de-commitment before the game.
“Jamie just de-committed to find some other interests. The school that he will pick next will be the school that he will be attending. There are a lot of other programs highly interested in him so it will be interesting to see if there are other schools that will give him an opportunity. Hopefully, LSU will pull him an offer soon.”
Vance has received other offers from Arizona, Louisville, Auburn, Southern, Arizona State, Southern Miss, SMU, ULL, Louisiana Tech, Viginia, UTSA, Mississippi State, ULM, Houston, Memphis, and Kansas.
It is not just the senior class that is loaded with talent, but there are a lot of underclassmen that are receiving a lot of college interests.
In the 2021 class, offensive tackle Kenneth Bannister (6-4, 260) has received offers from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana Tech.
Wide receiver Destyn Pazon (6-1, 175) is another big time recruit that has already received offers from Colorado, Louisiana Tech, Miami, South Alabama, Mississippi State, Alabama, Nicholls State, Tulane, Houston, Arkansas, LSU, and Tennessee.
In 2022 class, Tygee Hill (6-3, 270) has received offers from Colorado, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Virginia, Nicholls State, and Miami.
Coach Brown is also really high on Danye Brooks (5-10, 170) and Aaron Anderson (5-10, 180). They are guys he believes could play at the DI level.
Game Recap: Catholic High 47 Edna Karr 12
With all the future collegiate players on both sides of the football, it was time to see both of these great teams in action. It was the atmosphere you expected at Memorial Stadium between two of the state’s finest football teams. Early on, it looked to be a back and forth game. Both teams scored on their first two drives as Catholic held on to a slim 14-12 lead. After being stuffed on fourth down, the Cougars turned the ball over on downs giving the Bears great field position. The Bears capitalized on a Jackson Thomas touchdown pass to Braelen Morgan to extend the lead to 20-12. With the missed extra point, it was still an one possession game. However, the game changing play came right before halftime. After a strong start by Edna Karr quarterback Leonard Kelly, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Kelly forced a ball into tight coverage and as a result, was intercepted by Michael Cerniauskas 98 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a big momentum swing into halftime with a 27-12 lead. That was as close as it was going to get as the Bears ran away with it and controlled the tempo of the second half with a dominating 47-12 victory. The Bears’ rushing attack featuring quarterbacks Jackson Thomas, Landon O’Connor, and running backs Joshua Parker, Braelen Morgan, George Hart, and L.C. Benjamin accounted for 305 rushing yards and five touchdowns while the Bears defense only gave up two first downs in the second half. Heading into the game, Coach Fertitta was looking for a complete game from his team and with this total dominant performance, I believe he has found it. For Edna Karr, it was their worst loss since 2015 when the Cougars lost to St. Paul’s 34-7. So far, it has not been as quite the start the Cougars would have wanted in their quest for a fourth straight state championship as the team currently has a record of 2-2. However, considering those two losses came to John Curtis and Catholic High, the Cougars still have a lot to play for. Still, it was a big statement win for Catholic High School proving once again they can play with anybody in the state.
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