Cavs are quarterfinal bound: Calvary grounds high-flying Eagles

 DANCING IN:  Calvary running back James Simon strides past Menard defenders for a touchdown Friday night. (Journal photo by GAVEN HAMMOND,

By PRESTON EDWARDS, Journal Sports

“The time for talk and half measures is over.”

When Russell Crowe made this famous, quotable statement in the hit movie Gladiator, you knew he meant business.

That same statement and logic can be applied to the LHSAA football playoffs. 

It’s November — and that means the time for talking is over. It is time for business to be handled on the gridiron. 

For the Division III Select division’s No. 2-ranked Calvary Cavaliers, the time to handle business began Friday night as they came out of a bye week and hosted the 15th– seeded Holy Savior Menard Eagles from Alexandria.

While Calvary entered the game following an undefeated regular season, the Eagles were riding a six-game winning streak.  With “Uncle Mo” on their side after a dominating opening-round playoff win, Menard hoped to shock Calvary at its home stadium and move onto the quarterfinals.

Ignited by the play of their defense and special teams, the Calvary Cavaliers showed why they are a serious contender for a state championship with their 49-0 walloping of the Eagles (8-4). It was hardly the winners’ best performance offensively, said an expert observer.

Even though they scored seven touchdowns, veteran coach Rodney Guin was not happy with the way things started for the Cavaliers — especially in the run game. 

“We didn’t start the game playing hard,” said Guin. “We didn’t come off the ball and they were making it hard for us to run the ball early.”

After the initial Cavaliers’ drive stalled on the Menard 10, the defense picked up the intensity as soon as they took the field. 

Menard’s first three plays were as follows: one rush for minus 2 yards, another rush for 2 yards, and a third rush for negative 3 yards.

After a punt gave them a short field, the Cavs moved the ball in the air as Aubrey Hermes (7 catches for 153 yards) kept getting open.  Quarterback Abram Wardell used his improvisation skills and threw a touchdown pass to John Simon to open the scoring.

From there, the Calvary defense and special teams dominated the game. Menard’s first-year head coach David Perkins tried to play keepaway, but his offense couldn’t sustain enough possession time.

“We tried to rely on our seniors No. 12 (Gavin Hilton) and No. 33 (Cooper Scott) if we were going to have any chance,” was Perkins’ plan to threaten Calvary.

“We tried to keep their offense off the field by running the football (to) take time off the clock.  We knew they were all-world when we came in, and they showed us.”

“All-world” was the performance of the Cavs’ defense on this night as they held Menard to negative yards gained. The defense was so dominant that the Eagles never crossed the 50-yard line. 

The Cavaliers’ special teams got into the act in the second and third quarters as they blocked two punts.  One was returned right outside of the 20 to launch a short-field scoring drive, and the other was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. 

The offense did provide the coup de grace, however.

With the score 21-0, the Cavaliers pulled out the wide receiver pass.  Kolby Thomas received a lateral and hit a wide-open Aubrey Hermes. He maneuvered past a couple Menard defenders, then outran them, scoring the Cavs’ fourth touchdown in the first half.

Nail in the coffin. 

With the win, Calvary moves to 11-0 and will next host Parkview Baptist, who survived the Baton Rouge battle with Dunham 39-32. 

“Westgate and Wossman prepared us (for this run),” Guin said, looking ahead to next Friday, when the competition level ramps up considerably, and hoping for another two steps past then to complete Calvary’s 2023 mission.

Those hard-fought regular-season wins provide pretext for what lies ahead, hopefully in the next three games – one step at a time, win or else. If the Cavs cash in the lessons learned in those tough battles, they will be hoisting a state championship trophy in the Superdome at season’s end.