Additional reporting by Alexis Akers, Nathan Chatagnier and Zoe Tatum
As the school year begins and fall sports begin to compete, the St. Martin’s Episcopal School Varsity Football team is coming together to approach the season head on.
The team prepared for this season throughout the summer and in after school practices, following procedures mandated by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Head Football Coach Frank Gendusa said that the entire football team this year was united around a single goal.
“I think the biggest difference this year is the way our team is gelling together, and not just playing like a bunch of individuals on a team,” Gendusa said. “It really makes a difference when the kids are working together to reach a common goal.”
Gendusa shared that the team this year had an especially strong group of upperclassmen players, including Senior Captain Jonathan Castaneda.
“Jonathan Castaneda has been a real rock,” Gendusa said. “He’s a real multi-talented athlete and gives us the short yardage effectiveness.”
In addition to playing fullback, linebacker and defensive end, Castaneda also plays quarterback and running back. He has been on the varsity team since his 8th grade year, and has set his sights on improving each season.
“Last season, I got on first team all-district [as a] linebacker, and I definitely want to do that again,” Castaneda said. “I want to be overall just a better captain and player for the team and definitely put in some more rushing yards in games.”
In addition to spending time with his teammates, Castaneda enjoys the mindset that his teammates share about working together.
“It’s a good group of guys, no one is too big headed or no one think it’s all about them, everyone is set on making it a good team,” Castaneda said.
Another key player to the Saints’ success this season is Senior Monte Lewis, who plays running back and linebacker.
“Monte has progressively improved over the last couple of years,” Gendusa said. “When I got here, he was a sophomore and he’s a senior this year.”
According to Gendusa, Lewis runs the ball well and is tough to bring down because of his size and agility. He leads the team by example, and he works hard at practice, which shows on the field.
“What I can take away the most when it comes to football, is how to be a leader, and I’ve evolved into the captain that I am now by leading the younger players, working on being a better player, a better teammate, and critiquing myself,” Lewis said.
As well as helping lead the team to the playoffs, Lewis has set his sights high with his personal goals for his final season at St. Martin’s.
“One main goal I have is to become a part of the 1000-yard club because I was looking at the trophy and the last award was given in 2006,” Lewis said. “I have the mindset that this year I’m going to try my best to get it since it’s my senior year.”
In order to receive this award, Lewis will need to average 125 yards per game, but he is confident and believes that he can reach that goal. He is also planning on playing football in college.
“I’ve always had that crazy dream to take it all the way to the NFL so college is the next big step, and I’m ready to take it head on,” Lewis said.
One of the key things that Lewis looks for in a college football program is the atmosphere, and the dynamics between teammates and the crowds that support them.
“I have been getting scouted and have communicated a lot with a bunch of colleges,” Lewis said. “The main one that I have had number one interest from is Oklahoma. I visited and it looks like a really good school.”
However, Lewis plans to keep his options open to other offers and will commit to the school that’s the best fit for him. He says that after this season what he will miss most about the St. Martin’s football team is the community between the players.
“The chemistry we all have together it’s something you never forget,” Lewis said. “We’ve all started just strangers, but throughout the years we became brothers. We see each other as family and that’s the most you can take away from it, the bond you build with these people that you will remember for the rest of your life.”