The man who led Jesuit to its first state football championship since its heyday back in 1960 is taking off his whistle, and it seems as if it’s for good this time.
Mark Songy, 56, announced to his players Thursday (June 18) a move into administration on Banks Street, becoming the school’s prefect of discipline. In doing so, he finished up his second stint as Blue Jays football coach with a 72-62 overall record in 11 seasons there.
Overall, including a five-year run at Brother Martin from 1997 through 2001, Songy was 88-97 through 16 seasons as a head football coach in the Catholic League.
Current offensive coordinator and former Shaw and Holy Cross head football coach Scott Bairnsfather will take over the program on an interim basis.
“Jesuit has been a great place for me and my family for so many years, and I really look forward to stepping into a new role where I can be more involved in helping with the mission of Jesuit High School, a place that I love,” Songy said Thursday afternoon.
In an email to players and their families, he added: “I am grateful for such an opportunity to be able to assist in carrying out the mission of Jesuit on even a larger scale.”
Songy took over two days after Wayde Keiser announced his retirement from coaching in June 2014. And while the cupboard was anything but bare, Songy took the Blue Jays to a new level.
They went 8-2 that fall and earned the sixth seed in the Division I playoffs. What followed was a magical four-week run that included a first-round blowout of St. Augustine and a seven-point win over third-seeded St. Thomas More on the road.
Jesuit then knocked off second-seeded Rummel in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Tad Gormley Stadium to set up a showdown with top-seeded John Curtis at the Superdome for the championship.
Being a season before Curtis had entered the Catholic League, the schools had never previously faced off, although the Patriots were picked by nearly every media outlet to win their 27th state title. However, the Blue Jays defense, which had allowed more than 18 points in a game just once since Week 2, was stifling once again.
Despite trailing 14-7 at halftime, quarterback Trey Laforge hit three big passes for 60 yards on what ended up as the game-winning scoring drive. The last big connection went to Kalija Lipscomb for 45 yards early in the fourth quarter, and the defense did the rest, shutting out the Patriots in the second half.
Jesuit alums from decades back reveled in the 12-2 finish and first state championship in more than a half-century.
“It’s the pinnacle of success on this level and I was extremely fortunate to fall into a situation where the players were prepared, and we had a great coaching staff, and we had a little bit of luck along the way,” Songy said. “It’s something that every coach wants to do and hopes to do and very few are lucky enough to get put into a position where it works out.”
None of the next five seasons could live up to the regale of 2014, but other than a rough 2017 campaign, Songy’s teams were generally feared. In 2018 and last fall, the Blue Jays made runs to the quarterfinals before falling to Curtis both seasons.
In his second stint, Songy was 37-35, including a 7-5 postseason record, going to the quarterfinals or beyond in four of six seasons.
“First of all this move for Mark was strictly a move he wanted to make,” Jesuit athletic director Dave Moreau said. “It is a position that has always intrigued him, and when outgoing prefect of discipline Larry Abshire announced he would retire in July, Mark applied and went through the process. He is not going too far, so that is good.
“As far as running the football program, Mark is so character-oriented in his approach. He has never wavered from that, and he always wanted make an impact on a young man’s life. Certainly in coaching, he wanted to be sure what he was teaching his players were things they could use well beyond their football years.”
Moreau added the school is “very fortunate to have Scott here with 19 years as a head coach under his belt,” and that he expects no changes to the staff other than that.
Overall, Bairnsfather, 52, is 112-100 as a head coach, including an 87-81 record in 15 seasons at his alma mater, Shaw, including a run to three consecutive Class 4A state championship games in 2006-08. However, the Eagles ran into tough times with declining enrollment and are still trying climb their way back.
He said Thursday he isn’t thinking about anything beyond this summer and fall.
“I am honored administration asked me to take over the program on an interim basis,” said Bairnsfather, who likely will continue to call the plays. “We’ll see what happens, but all I am going to be focused on is getting us ready to play.”
VSN Louisiana’s Lonn Ellzey contributed to this report.