Notre Dame faces Parkview for 3A title
By Tom Brown
LSN STAFF WRITER
CROWLEY – If there is one thing for sure about the Class 3A state championship game, it is that neither team will have a problem with the bright lights and big city night.
Either Notre Dame or Parkview Baptist has been a participant in seven of the past nine championship matchups. The two schools have run through each other in previous marches to the title game and now will meet for the first time on the Superdome turf.
The Pios beat Redemptorist for the 2000 title and Parkview won it the following season over Belle Chase. Notre Dame suffered three heartbreaking runner up finishes from 2003-05 and Parkview defeated Westlake for the championship in ’07.
It was Lutcher last season that forced Notre Dame to pick up the second place trophy again. Pios coach Lewis Cook has pretty much mastered the role of bridesmaid the past few seasons and this time would prefer going back to throwing the bouquet.
“It would sure be nice to win another one,” said Cook. “I think the kids feel like there is some unfinished business after not coming away with the top prize last year. The game is such a neat experience and has become such a spectacle being in the Superdome. Everybody wants to win and there is a little consolation if you only go once or twice. After losing four times in a row there isn’t as much consolation in just getting there.”
To say the teams left standing have earned the right to play on this stage goes without saying. You can make all the excuses imaginable about weather, but all ten semifinals were played last Friday and every team had to face the same conditions.
Let’s just put this to bed once and for all. Notre Dame left no doubt against Catholic–New Iberia, controlling the game from the start in a 43-0 win. Played a day later, a week later or next April, pick the time and place and it might not have even been that close. Parkview was equally effective in a 42-0 win over E.D. White.
“Not to slight anyone else, I think we’re both pretty good teams,” noted Parkview coach Kenny Guillot. “They’ve been #1 all year and we’ve had to kind of work our way up to where we are. There are some other teams good enough to be in the finals, but we are the two that have made it to the end and there’s something to say for that.”
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there isn’t much ground in between for fans and opponents of Notre Dame and Parkview. The two programs have become a standard of excellence that teams at every level strive to emulate.
The Notre Dame school is in the playoffs for the 43rd time which ties for third among all classes. Just to note, that’s five times more than John Curtis and 22 more than West Monroe. Notre Dame has been to the title game nine times with three championships.
Parkview hasn’t been around quite as long but certainly has made an impact since bursting on the scene. The Eagles have 16 playoff appearances with wins both times they have reached the title game, including a 19-18 win over Westlake in 2007.
“We’ve only got 12 seniors this year, so there aren’t many from that championship team that were full time players,” continued Guillot. “Our quarterback Brady Wilson was the starting free safety and Drew Dileo was the starting running back, but we’re more or less a different team than two years ago.”
Parkview Baptist has won nine straight games after dropping a 24-15 week five contest to Dutchtown, the No. 6 seed in 5A. The Eagles are 12-1 including a win over Acadiana (31-14) and a week ten thrashing of Redemptorist (44-27) for the district title.
After handling Marksville (40-8) in the playoff opener, Parkview got all it could handle from Crowley before pulling away for a 38-16 win. On the road at Patterson, the Eagles survived, 33-21, and went on to eliminate E.D. White last week.
While the outcomes have been very similar, the ways Parkview and Notre Dame get to the end result have been contrasting. The Eagles are a run oriented mix of triple option and veer behind an imposing front line that likes to come right at opponents. The Pios are more a zone type running attack and has been described by some as a finesse team with a potent passing game to balance the attack.
“At this stage of the game you’ve been practicing since August and the kids should be pretty knowledgeable of what you are doing, so I wouldn’t expect any big changes from either team,” said Guillot. “We’re throwing the ball a little bit better than the past and that makes us a more balanced team, but we still hope to run the ball and that will be the key for us.”
Fullback Brandon Johnson (5-10, 190, So) is the power yardage leader from the backfield with 722 yards. Dileo (5-8, 180) is the more explosive option. The Michigan commitment is a versatile threat with 719 rushing yards, 541 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns.
“He’s an all around player, a game breaker,” said Guillot. “He returns kicks and punts, catches the ball and we hand it to him out of the backfield. He does a lot of things for our offense and has been a big part of our success. He also plays a little cornerback for us on defense.”
Senior quarterback Brady Wilson (6-1, 185) is the first two-year starter in several seasons for the Eagles and triggers the passing game that has wakened opponents to an unusual threat by Parkview standards. Wilson has had a hand in 30 total TDs this year with 1,132 yards passing and 821 yards on the ground.”
“We need to keep the ball away from them as much as possible and limit their possessions,” said Guillot. “Brady (Wilson) has done a good job throwing, but I still think the key for us is being able to control the ball on the ground and in turn be able to stop their running game. It should be a very good finals game.”
For the second season in a row, Notre Dame reaches the title game unbeaten. This senior class has won 29 straight in the regular season and is 39-2 overall the past three seasons.
With just an average offensive day, the Pios will go over 5,000 yards for the year and that may be unprecedented in Notre Dame football. Quarterback Ryan Leonards has tossed 20 TD passes and needs nine passing yards to reach 2,000.
“With Ryan back there it just opens up so many more things for us to be able to do,” said Cook. “Ryan can handle more than a lot of high school kids and that in itself lends to being able to do more.”
Wide receiver Morgan Allen (39-863, 5 TD) will conclude an outstanding senior campaign and whoever is tossing the pigskin next season will have a couple of top returning junior targets to aim at. Zac D’Aquin (24-557, 6 TD) has been on a seven week tear and Stu Cook (30-343, 6 TD) is as effective catching as running.
On the ground, Notre Dame has been a three headed monster with fullback Watson (99-605, 9 TD) pounding the interior, Cook (121-554, 12 TD) leaving defenders headed in opposite directions and Venable (134-823, 14 TD) just running past everyone.
The Pios hadn’t given the ball to any one back enough times for a hundred yard rusher until the past two weeks. Venable gained 112 yards against Rayville and totaled 127 on 14 carries in snow shoes last week.
“He is the kind of back you want in down the stretch to keep a drive going,” says Cook. “Logan is a hard-nosed, downhill runner, quick to the hole and can take that first crease and get you four or five yards.”
There’s not enough that can be said about what the Pios defense has accomplished. While the offense was pounding out drive after drive last week, the defense did not allow Catholic High to get close enough to even sniff 100 yards of offense.
The Pios defense has held opponents to an average 73 rushing and 82 passing yards per game. That won’t score a lot of points and is a big reason why the Pios have pitched six shutouts.
Think about this! Parkview has scored 488 points and allowed 162. The Pios have scored 415 points and allowed 91. Can two teams mirror each other any better?
“Both offenses are strong and playing well right now and I think it comes down to which can manufacture some points on the others defense,” said Cook. “Our defense has played well and it will be about the same things we’ve asked of them all year. We need to prevent big plays, turn the field position in our favor and put together some consistency on offense. We’re very thankful to have been able to survive to this point and hopefully we can bring home a championship.”
The millennium began with Notre Dame winning the 3A state championship. Now with a sixth trip to the finals in ten years, the Pios can wipe away the frustration and disappointment by writing a fairy tale final chapter on an already highly successful decade.