When Brusly High first-year head football coach Hoff Schooler arrived on campus, his goal was to build a program, not just a team.
Although the season ended for the Panthers last Thursday, Nov. 2, with their 42-12 loss to Madison Prep, giving Brusly 4-6 overall and a 2-5 district record, Schooler said that the season is not a failure.
“We improved tremendously from Week One to Week 10, and the seniors were part of laying a foundation for this program to build on. Our plan has never been to build a team, it’s to build a program,” Schooler said. “That program starts with the youth league teams and goes all the way up through the seniors. This group of guys are working hard to win in every area whether it’s in the classroom, community or football field. With that comes some growing pains, but we will continue to go to work on being as good as we can be in every area.”
Thursday’s game against Madison Prep didn’t go that horribly at first. The Panthers were only behind by two points going into the second half.
“We started the game a little slower than we have in recent weeks and spotted [Madison] two scores,” Schooler said. “But we were able to come back and take the momentum in the game with an interception on defense then the score on the blocked punt.”
After Grant Watts intercepted the ball, Brusly almost gave the ball right back to Madison Prep, but a fake punt and a toss to Keithan Francois gave the Panthers their first score.
“I don’t think we played to a playoff type level early on. However, when we gained the momentum we played well. We forced three turnovers and blocked a punt for a score all in a short period of time. At that point, we recovered from the slow start and really had a chance to take control at the end of the first half, but we ended up throwing the interception right before half,” Schooler said.
Brusly had two more interceptions in the first half: one by Diante Clayton and one by Harrison Boudreaux, but the offense was unable to get in the endzone.
The second touchdown came for Brusly when Alex White recovered a bad Madison Prep punt and ran it in for an additional six points.
Nothing went right for the Panthers in the second half. Madison Prep was able to get 28 more points on the board.
“In the second half we turned the ball over and it was a flip of what we did in the second quarter,” Schooler said. “Madison Prep was able to take advantage of the turnovers.”
When the final whistle blew, many senior football players stood on the field realizing that they might never again step on the football field again, at least as a high school player.
The team learned on Sunday that they had missed the playoffs.
Schooler had a message for the boys.
“The final game is always emotional when you put in the effort and work that it takes to be successful in football. For those guys, the games end, but the memories, lessons and relationships will last a lifetime,” Schooler said. “It’s important for them to know that they don’t stop being a Brusly football player just because their playing time is over. We are going to continue to help them reach their goals academically and for some athletically. The best support any program can have is from former players, and we will expect them to always be around to mentor and support younger players.”
Now that Schooler has his first season with the Panthers over, it is on to next season.
“For the younger guys, next season starts now. We did not have the luxury of an offseason program with this year’s team, but we do now. We will go to work every day – that’s coaches and players alike – to get better both mentally and physically,” Schooler said. “This is a blue-collar sport and there are no silver bullets that bring success. Getting better is about putting your head down and working as hard as you can every day, there are no off days.”