Interview with HC Mark Bonis
2014 saw Brother Martin Football have one of the school’s best seasons in recent history. The team went 10-3 making it all the way to their first semifinal appearance since 1989. One of the most impressive parts of the season was how the crusaders competed in the extremely competitive Catholic League. They blew out teams such as St. Augustine and Holy Cross while losing to the future state champion Blue Jays by only 3 points. A big part of that success was Head Coach Mark Bonis. Last week I sat down with Coach Bonis to talk to him about his football program.
Something evident in every student, staff member, or anyone associated with Brother Martin is a certain pride in being a part of the school. It does not take long to see it in Coach Bonis as well.
“Looking at Brother Martin itself, it starts with the Tradition of Coach (Bob) Conlin. Having this job is such an honor. Coach Bourgeois, Coach Conlin, Coach Songy, Coach Keiser, Coach Pittman…there has only been a handful of guys to hold this title. It is a lot of responsibility to meet the expectations of being Head Coach. I want to make those coaches proud of the job my staff and I do here.”
One of the first things we talked about was competing in the Catholic League. Rummel, St. Augustine, Jesuit, Holy Cross, Shaw and now John Curtis are all teams with a history of tradition and success. How do you compete in what many believe to be the toughest district in the entire state?
“Let me just say being part of the Catholic League is something special in and of itself. It is an incredible experience. Competing in the league is always going to be difficult. It is all about planning and trying to prepare a program as compared to trying to prepare for the season. You have to look at the bigger picture. Since I became head coach, we have been able to lay a foundation for our program. That foundation was a huge part of our success last year. At the same time, you cannot get to far ahead of yourself. You need to have a long term vision while having short term goals.”
A vision and long term plan is what Coach Bonis put in to place right away in 2010. He expanded on his plan the more we talked:
“Jay (Pittman) did a great job with the program after the storm. He got things back together, and we were able to win two district championships. My big goal was to take this program to the next level. The team had not been passed the second round of the playoffs since 1994. I got my staff together and discussed where we wanted to take this team. We knew we had some special kids. We wanted players like Roderic Teamer and Brendon Hayes to play at a young age. They started as sophomores, and we had to take our lumps. We had short term goals to get better every week while also knowing that this past years class would have a chance to do something special. It was so amazing see this senior class, who got their butts kicked as sophomores, be only 1 game from winning a district championship. These kids were one game away from playing in the Dome.”
Coach Bonis talked about taking lumps and missing out on success in the early years. He also talked about how rewarding it was for the staff and his vision to come together.
We definitely had our doubts. We started to ask our selves if we had planned this vision right? In the end it pretty much worked out how we thought it would. Obviously, we wish we could have won a district championship and gone to the Dome. Still, winning two playoff games was something we had not done since 1994. Now, we have more kids coming to our school and wanting to enroll in our program. Things that we knew would happen after having a successful season are happening.
I am really excited to see where Crusaders go in the next couple years. They have the foundation that Coach Bonis and his staff wanted in order to do some special things. Now the team needs to stay on course and continue to develop. I asked Coach Bonis what is the biggest issue going forward?
“Complacency. Let me start with saying our entire senior class won the the Conlin Award this year. Those guys knew what it was like to lose, were hungry to win, and kept the kids younger than themselves hungry as well. They were just all so important and were the reason for our success this year. We really had some outstanding leaders in that senior class. The question now is who will step up to fill that void? After a 10 win season, being content is the biggest issue we have. I can already see some complacency settling into our kids, some even being starters from last year. Complacent kids will be replaced. It is not fair to the class that is about to graduate and the two classes before them who struggled to get this program to where it is right now. “
Even though it is only April, you can hear the excitement in Coach Bonis’s voice when it comes to talking about next season. I asked him specifically what he was looking forward to going into 2015?
“Offensively, I am excited about some of our weapons that we are returning. We are going to miss Skyler Johnson at WR and Jared West at RB. Bruce (Jordan-Swilling), who has loads of talent, will be taking Jared’s spot at RB. Defensively, we should have a lot of competition which I cannot wait to see how that progresses. I love competition. We have to replace eight guys which most people look at with dread. To me, I have 24 guys battling for 8 spots and those battles are really going to be fun to watch. I am really excited about developing and teaching the kids who will be in new roles. That is one of the reasons I love coaching.”
Brother Martin has a chance to do some really special things in the next couple seasons. Coach Bonis and the coaching staff have done a great job and the program is growing.The kids are talented, but they need to work hard and stay hungry. It takes more than just talent to win the Catholic League. Maybe next year, the Crusaders can accomplish just that.