Notre Dame hosts LaGrange in season opener
CROWLEY – Playing an opponent for the first time ever doesn’t leave a lot of options for research. When Notre Dame opens the season tonight against LaGrange, the Pios are not only trading up to a 4A program on the move, but facing a tough assignment in preparing for the opposition.
“It is challenging because there is a lot more uncertainty than when you are playing teams you have seen in the past,” notes Pios head coach Lewis Cook. “When you have a history, you know their philosophy and more of what to expect. In this case, we are trying to figure out their game plans and it does pose problems in not being sure where they will be exactly.”
Lagrange trailed Washington-Marion 16-0 at the half and battled back for a chance to tie at the end of their jamboree game in Lake Charles. With eight minutes to play, Alvinosky Lafleur ran it in from eight yards out and Jaylun Myles converted a two point try to make it 16-8.
Gators QB Quindon Barry completed a touchdown pass to Myles as time expired. The tying 2-point conversion pass was knocked away and Washington-Marion prevailed 16-14. Jaylun Myles led the Lagrange effort with two receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown and added 18 rushing yards on two carries.
“All we have is a little scrimmage film because they didn’t record their jamboree,” added Cook. “We’ll just go out there the first series and adjust to what they are doing since we don’t have a lot to go on. Like against Cecilia, we’ll run players out and move guys around to attack what we see as opportunities to be successful against them.”
Notre Dame scored on all three possessions for a 21-12 win over Cecilia at the Kiwanis Jamboree.
More notable was the unveiling of near exclusive use of the shotgun and pistol formations. The Pios offense put up 238 total yards in what was essentially a “half” game.
“We tried to give a different look to gain some different options and be a little less locked in on what we do,” Cook explains. “Last year we got in shotgun usually to pass the ball when the situation called for it. Now, we are able to develop a little bit of a package, where it is not going to necessarily be an automatic pass. We feel we can mix it up better in that way.”
Notre Dame found little resistance from the Bulldogs defense. Brad Stoma completed 9-of-11 passes for 95 yards and ran for 35 yards and touchdown. Running back John Michael Besse picked up 35 yards on the ground and caught five passes for 56 yards.
Cecilia scored on two big plays, a 38-yard pass and a 70-yard run by sophomore speedster Raymond Calais. The Bulldogs were otherwise kept in check by the Pios defense and netted just eleven more yards the rest of the night.
“We haven’t really gotten a true look at our defense yet,” said Cook. “We had three starters held out of the jamboree, but fortunately none are seriously injured and have a chance to be ready for the opener. Even so, our defense didn’t allow Cecilia to move the ball much in the second half. I would rather the big plays because that is something we can correct rather than have a team driving on us for eight or 10 plays.”
LaGrange won its last four regular season games to earn District Co-Champion honors and reached the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs to finish 9-4 last season. The Gators knocked off Franklinton in the opening round (33-6) and was equally dominant against St. Martinville (41-20) in the second week. Sixth seeded Holy Cross ended the run with a 40-8 win in the quarters.
Head coach Jules Sullen enters his sixth year at LaGrange. Like many teams across the state, the Gators will adjust to new faces in league play after district realignment. Crowley, Eunice and Rayne move up from 3A to join the Gators in District 4-4A with Beau Chene, Opelousas and Washington Marion.
Matchup problems will be much the same as anytime the Pios are playing up in class. LaGrange will be big up front with talented skill players, but in the case of this year’s Gators, depth will have to come from younger, inexperienced players.
“They have quality athletes, a big quarterback and receivers and an experienced running back,” added Pios coach Cook. “They were a quarterfinal team last year, they run the ball effectively and can throw it, so there is a lot we’ll have to contend with for a season opener.”
Senior runningback Tyler Guillory (5-10, 225) will be counted on to lead the offense. After sharing time in the backfield last season, Guillory will be the featured ball carrier with size to power between the tackles and enough speed to also take it outside.
Backing up Guillory will be sophomores Markell Hawthorne (5-10, 180) and Alvinosky Lafleur (5-11, 175). Lafleur scored inside against Washington-Marion in the jamboree.
Strong armed quarterback Quindon Berry (6-3, 225 Sr) will take snaps with a pair of senior targets in the Gators passing attack. College prospect Martell Hawthorne (6-4, 185) is a deep threat with big play ability. On the other side will be Alphonse Ardoin (6-1, 196) with sophomore Jaylun Myles (6-0, 170) who had a big game in the jamboree last week.
Only one starter returns on the offensive line that will be plenty big and strong with experienced players stepping in. Seniors Landon Avery (6-1, 255) and Daleon Brown (6-0, 245) anchor the left side at tackle and guard. Juniors Marquise Talbert (6-5, 290) and Casey Vincent (5-9, 225) hold down the right side guard and tackle spots with junior Wilson Lemelle (5-8, 285) centering snaps.
Defensively, the Gators are a little more settled in with six starters back. Juniors Javon Parker (6-3, 240) and Jalen Smith (6-0, 195) will bookend the defensive front. Junior Kenneth Joubert (6-2, 280) and Rachard Lee (5-10, 255) will take over on the inside tackle spots.
Senior Charles Wilridge (6-2, 215) leads the linebacker corpse. He will be joined by returner Brian Sterling (5-11, 180) and sophomore Zavier Hall (5-10, 190).
Senior cornerback Markel Thomas (5-10, 170) is another of the Gators college prospects and is back to start for the third year. He is joined at corner by senior Deonte Goodley (6-0, 185).
Deep coverage will be on a learning curve with youth manning the safety positions. Junior Traelon Anderson (6-0, 185) and sophomore Michael Leday (5-9, 170) will step into starting roles to round out the defense.
“I’m not a big fan of August,” summed up Cook. “It’s a good day when September rolls around and the season starts. We look forward to getting into a regular routine.”