Comets’ win extra special to those who came before

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2011



St. Charles Catholic’s players and coaches knew just how much a championship would mean to its alumni and its surrounding community. They knew because those who came before let them know it.

Following his team’s 9-8 Class 3A state championship victory Saturday, Comets coach Frank Monica detailed how he received letters in the days leading up to the game from former coaches who had led the SCC charge before, those who had come up short in the big game — Saturday marked SCC’s first ever state championship, but not its first title game appearance.

Bring this one home, they said. Do what we could not. The sentiment also came from former players and alumni.

“They were letters of regret, about how they got to the top, but didn’t win it,” said Monica.

Monica had tasted championship victory twice before, though not at St. Charles.

But for five assistant coaches, the win had extra special meaning. Ty Monica, Wayne Stein, Paul Waguespack, Chris Waguespack and Alex Vicknair each could count himself as an alumni of the school who returned to coach and, ultimately, lead their alma mater to the ultimate prize.

The victory did not come out of left field. SCC has been one of the state’s consistent winners over Monica’s tenure, one that had competed in two state title games and two semifinals over the previous six seasons. The Comets lost just four games over 2009 and 2010, to powerhouses Curtis and Evangel.

The gravity of the championship win was not lost on Stein, the team’s defensive coordinator who presided over a defense that allowed just 23 offensive points this season.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment for all the guys who came before,” said Stein. “You just talk to them and get the idea of how much this is appreciated.”

A graduate of the St. Charles class of 1999, Stein played running back for the Comets during his on-field days and has coached at SCC for the past eight years.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this isn’t a little extra special for me,” said Stein. “And I’m sure the others (alumni on the staff) would say the same. This is something we’ll have for the rest of our lives that can never be taken away, no matter where things take us.”

The Comet defense couldn’t have entered the playoffs on a better note. St. Charles shut out its last four opponents and allowed just eight offensive points in the last eight games.

“It’s a testament to Coach Monica,” said Stein. “He’s an offensive-minded coach that still believes defense wins championships. He always makes sure the defensive side is stocked with talented players.

“But really, the kids deserve all the credit. We don’t do anything fancy. We’re not drawing up these unblockable blitzes or schemes. We’re an old school, read and react defense. Our kids work hard. Our motto is that we try and put them in position to succeed, but the credit goes to them.”

Stein said that his philosophy as a coach is to make teams execute consistently over long drives.

“I don’t panic or send the house if another team gets a first down,” he said. “Make them find small windows and have to work to score. We believe that sooner or later, our kids will make a play,” he said.

That rang true against Amite time and time again. On one drive, the Warriors drove inside of the Comets’ 10, but came up empty when Luke Jackson first sacked Reginald Porter, then Conner Western intercepted him.

But when Amite scored and then converted for two points in the fourth quarter to draw within one on Saturday, Stein said the nerves kicked in for him. It was only briefly.

“I admit, I had a little panic in my eyes,” he said. “But when those kids came to the sideline and said, ‘Ok, we made a mistake, but it won’t happen again’ … it showed so much resolve and maturity that I couldn’t even show any kind of anxiety … It was like everyone said at halftime. Today, nine has to be enough. And it was.”

That defense was helped by the Comets offense all year. St. Charles finished an incredible plus-27 in turnover margin, thanks in large part to a veteran quarterback in Donnie Savoie that took care of the football and a first team offense that lost just one fumble all season — the Amite game, in fact, saw the first mishandled center-quarterback exchange of the season, and Monica noted that happened when the ball got caught in a towel.

But offensive coordinator Ty Monica’s side of the ball didn’t just protect the football — St. Charles was the rare team that’s explosive and aggressive that almost never made crucial mistakes. SCC failed to top 31 points just twice all season — in the semifinals and final — and scored 42 or more 10 times. SCC outscored its foes 475-25 in the regular season.

A graduate of the class of 98 who played quarterback for St. Charles, he shared Stein’s sentiment about what the victory meant.

“It’s just incredible,” he said. “Just for the community … I’ve been in touch with alumni from all over the country. We felt like we were going to battle for everyone that ever wore the Comet uniform. And as someone who did that, it was almost like playing in the game for me. To help to give that gift to 90-something football players, something everyone who came before them wasn’t able to accomplish … it’s special.”

He said that he and the other coaches knew they had a good team coming back this season. But what gave the younger Monica — who is one of the very rare folk who can now say he coached a team to a state championship with his father — an inkling that this could be a special season was the resilience of the team in the face of adversity.

“Every time someone was injured or didn’t play as well as they usually do, someone else was ready to step up and carry the load,” said Monica. “Everyone on our team knew what had to be done in those situations, what had to go down, and they did it.

“I don’t care how good you are … to win a state championship, you need to have some breaks. The ball has to bounce your way, in terms of the draw, or injury … and this team overcame all of that.”

Indeed, St. Charles overcame injuries, most notably those of running backs Lazedrick Thompson and Marcus Hall, two of the top producing tailbacks in the state.

To compound matters, with the two largely unavailable on offense for the postseason, the Comets had no time to regroup; a power points quirk left them matched up with No. 15 seed Patterson in round two, a team that had been ranked second in the state poll all season. Defending champion Parkview Baptist awaited in the semifinals. And Amite gave SCC the toughest game of all.

“I don’t know if anyone, regardless of class, could have had a tougher bracket,” said Monica.

But in the end, the Comets overcame it all and Ty Monica was able to call a play he’s dreamt of calling for years — the victory kneeldown on the final play of the state championship game.

He got to live out a dream in the process.

“I’ve been coming to see these championship games in the Superdome since I was five or six years old,” he said.

“I played in two championship games. And one of the things I’ve always had in the back of my mind, that I’ve wanted to do, was to be on that sideline that wins the state championship and do snow angels on that Dome turf. It’s just one of those little things in life that you can always appreciate and remember.”