In a coaching career spanning 50 years, Frank Monica had experienced it all.
Well, not quite.
Monica never coached a team that was under .500 after five games like his St. Charles Comets were in 2018.
Things sort of bottomed out for the Comets in Week 5 with a 21-2 loss to Class 5A East Ascension.
“We knew we were out-manned in that game and we were hoping to get out of that game without any serious injuries because they were a very, very good football team,” said Monica.
“We didn’t play well that night and we knew it,” Monica continued. “They (the Spartans) were good. If we played our best and they played their best, they would still win, but we didn’t play our best game.
“After that game, we knew we had to get back to the drawing board.”
It may have been back to the drawing board for the Comets but there weren’t wholesale changes just for the sake of changes.
“We didn’t panic. We kept doing the same things over and over again,” Monica explained. “A lot of people would say, ‘we’re changing the offense; we’re changing the defense.’ We didn’t panic. We kept working hard and made the kids accountable for their practices.
“Sometimes you can change to a point where you tweak so much – you have to watch that because it’s like baseball when you start to adjust your batting stance a little bit – you adjust it so much, an all-of-a-sudden, you can’t do anything right and you worry more about the adjustment that playing the game.”
In the case of the Comets, they started to do everything right.
After the loss to East Ascension, the Comets won their final five games of the regular season, including back-to-back road wins over De La Salle and St. James, to finish 7-3 overall and capturing the District 10-3A title.
Following an opening-round bye in the Division II playoffs, the Comets defeated Parkview Baptist 14-7 before falling 49-7 to St. Thomas More in the semifinals.
For overcoming the unchartered waters of a slow start and yet another deep playoff run, Monica has been selected as RiverParishFootball.com’s Coach of the Year.
It is the third time for Monica to win the award. He also won the award in 2010 and 2011.
Other winners include: Robert Valdez, West St. John (2012); Dwain Jenkins, St. James (2013); Stephen Robicheaux, Destrehan (2014); Time Detillier, Lutcher (2015); Dwain Jenkins (Lutcher) and Bill Stubbs, Riverside Academy (2016); and Brandon Walters, West St. John (2017).
The origins of the turnaround, Monica said, actually began before the start of the season.
“It went way back in camp; the 22 guys you are starting probably will not be the 22 that finish the season. That second-team guy, he has to get himself ready to be that starter. It could happen in the first quarter, it could happen anywhere. All-of-a-sudden, you are ‘Whoa, I wasn’t ready for this.’ So, we told them that, ‘you better be prepared,’” Monica said.
Monica said he knew his defense would be good and that certainly proved to be the case. In SCC’s seven regular-season wins, the only time the Comets’ defense allowed more than a touchdown was in a 14-12 win over De La Salle in Week 9.
Still, the veteran coach said he knew his team was going into the season with some offensive deficiencies.
“The difficult thing is we didn’t have that home-run hitter – the guy that can run the top off defenses as a receiver,” Monica said. “We didn’t have that running back that could go 70, 80 yards. We had those guys that can give you 8 or 10 yards and pick up a first down.
“We had a very young offensive line and we didn’t have an offensive line coach and I had to take over those duties and had to run the quarterback situation. That became difficult.”
Difficult, but never impossible, for Monica.
“It wasn’t easy. We knew that the schedule being a little top-heavy was going to be difficult. We had a period right in the middle of the season that became a turning point,” the St. Charles coach said.
It was a turning point that led to another district title and deep playoff run.
*All of the 2018 River Parish post-season trophies were purchased at Faber Awards. They were paid for by the sponsorship of DiCarlo’s Food and Spirits. Located in Cypress Lakes Country Club, DiCarlo’s Food and Spirits is open to the public for lunch and dinner Tuesday-through Saturday. They offer a full menu and daily lunch specials, crawfish and seafood specials on Friday during Lent. You can find out more on their Facebook page or by calling (985) 764-6868.