Cook: What Pios accomplished 'amazing'

CROWLEY – Yes, they lost in the state finals. And, yes, it was disappointing.

But you won’t find Notre Dame head coach Lewis Cook pouting about it.

Just the opposite, in fact.

When Cook reflects on the 2012 season, he has to smile.

After all, the Pios went into the season with 16 new starters, including a quarterback who just a year earlier was taking snaps on the Notre Dame freshman team.

No one, not even the veteran Cook, envisioned the Pios making a trip to New Orleans the second Saturday in December.

“With a sophomore quarterback that hadn’t taken a snap in a varsity game, starting a whole new defensive line and two new linebackers and the question marks we had in the secondary…. I wouldn’t have thought that this year would have been the year for us to make it (to the Dome),” said Cook.

But it was the year, as unexpected as it was.

The Pios, who had advanced to the semifinal round 11 times, played in the title game seven times and won two state championships since 2000, went through a daunting regular-season slate with just one loss and then powered through the playoffs before falling to Parkview Baptist, 42-7, in the state title game on Saturday.

In short, just making it to the finals was something that Cook, had he been asked about it in August, would have laughed off.

“If someone would have bet me everything I had, they would own it,” said Cook. “We just had so many question marks in August. What these kids were able to accomplish was simply amazing.”

Cook was uncertain of exactly how good his team would be in 2012, but he saw signs of the Pios potential early and often during the regular season.

The Pios opened the season with a 24-21 victory over Breaux Bridge and then they suffered their first loss of the season with a 14-10 setback against Class 4A’s Teurlings in a game that the Pios were in until the final horn.

Back-to-back quality victories over St. Louis and Catholic High of New Iberia followed and catapulted the Pios into a rugged district stretch.

As they had been so many times in years past, the Pios were up to the challenge.

They walked through their league slate, dominating their opponents in five straight games to earn the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

“The district was pretty good,” said Cook. “We went through a good district and won. At that point I thought, ‘this team maybe isn’t too bad’.

“And then we get the bracket: We have Patterson, St. Charles and East Feliciana, which I knew was pretty good, and I think, ‘man, somebody doesn’t want us to get there’.

“But we came through all of that and we were still there.”

The bracket draw was exceptionally difficult for a No. 2 seed.

Patterson wasn’t the conventional No. 31 seed and the Jacks proved that by giving the Pios all they could handle before Notre Dame slipped away with a 38-26 victory.

The regional round was also tough, but the Pios rallied late to take a 27-7 victory over defending 3A champion St. Charles.

The Pios then knocked off district foe Iowa (35-0) in the quarterfinals and, a week later, they survived an upset bid from No. 22 East Feliciana in the semifinals (16-14).

“I was impressed with the whole group of kids, the way they came together and what they were able to accomplish,” said Cook of his squad. “There was no team in that Class 3A bracket, anywhere on there, that if they would have advanced to the finals that would have had a tougher crawl than what we fell with at the No. 2 seed.

“On top of everything else that we accomplished, we came through the toughest part of the bracket in 3A.”

Unfortunately, the remarkable run came to an end against a very talented Parkview Baptist team and the Pios finished as the Class 3A runnerup for the fifth time in the last 12 years and sixth time in the school’s history.

“Everybody is disappointed that we picked a bad time to not play real well,” said Cook of the title game. “We didn’t play as well as we had in that last game. Of course, Parkview had a lot to do with that.

“But we’re a little bit better than what we did out there on Saturday.”

For now, the Pios get a break from football, but it won’t be long before Cook’s 2012-2013 squad is back at it.

“We met with the kids today (Monday) and just told them how proud of them we were,” said Cook, who was at his office until late in the evening on Sunday, already looking ahead.

“We just kind of tried to get them to realize what they accomplished during the season.

“Now, for some of the other guys, it’s time for them to step it up and move forward and I know there’s a bunch of them ready to do that. They’re ready to step in and they are chomping at the bit because it’s their turn.

“We’ll crank back up in January and try to get it going from there.”

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