Notre Dame opens district play against Erath
By Tom Brown
LSN STAFF WRITER
CROWLEY – High School football has reached the halfway point of the regular season with very few surprises. Teams not already into league play will jump into the title race and face district opponents this week.
Notre Dame will welcome Erath to open league play for both squads. The Bobcats will lead a parade of four Vermilion Parish teams in the newly aligned District 5-3A. Abbeville drops down from 4A and joins North Vermilion and Kaplan for the move north with Erath to hook up with Rayne and the Pios.
“We’ve played those teams before, but it’s been quite a while for some,” commented Pios coach Louis Cook. “Our old district was together for a lot of years and I think it’s good for our kids and our fans to see some new faces. When you play the same teams and go to the same places every year you get to know each other so well that it probably gets a little stale. I think playing some different people will make us pay closer attention and actually help us prepare.”
First year head coach Destin Dieterich takes over the Erath program after assistant positions at Notre Dame, Lafayette High and St. Martinville. It has been an up and down start for the Bobcats and the task ahead appears to be a tall one in trying to put a damper on the Pios homecoming festivities.
Erath opened with a 28-12 win over Berwick, rushing for over 230 yards in the win. Catholic, New Iberia, then pummeled the Bobcat defense for 525 yards in a 35-6 final. Erath bounced back to defeat Vermilion Catholic (20-0) and West St. Mary (42-7) before losing last week at Church Point, 21-7.
“We’ve progressed a little slower than I thought we would,” noted Dieterich. “I can’t quite put my finger on any one thing, but we’ve had a few injuries to key players and trying to put in our system we’ve had some of the same mistakes by the same people. No matter who we are playing, you can’t keep putting the ball on the ground on offense and giving the other team a short field.”
The Bobcats returned five starters on offense and defense. But the numbers aren’t really a factor since Dieterich has changed the schemes on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Erath will rely on the running game with an option attack and the Bobcats have transitioned from a 50 defense to a 4-3 alignment.
“We basically are a take what they give us offense,” continued Dieterich. “We don’t have any one player for defenses to key on so we let them dictate what we do. Our change to the 4-3 on defense is better suited to us. We’re not very big and we’re not real fast. What we have is a bunch of pretty decent athletes that are quick to react and can run to the ball.”
The option offense has spread the wealth around five running backs and first year starter Jude Cessac at quarterback. The junior ran for 72 yards in the opening win against Berwick.
The most consistent performer in the backfield has been Dason Bernard (5-8, 170) and the Bobcats have had big games from Cole Bourque, Tate Bodin (5-7, 175, Jr), and Chris Tyson (6-0, 175, Sr), who was moved from quarterback in August to take advantage of his speed and open field talents.
Depth has been the biggest obstacle defensively for the Bobcats. The same names are showing up on both sides of the ball and though Dieterich says fatigue hasn’t really been a problem, it does effect what the Bobcats do. For example, Tyler Verret (5-11, 220, Sr) has a game with two touchdowns and 74 yards rushing on 10 carries, but has spent most of his time at linebacker where he anchors the Erath defense.
“From my time at Notre Dame, I know what to expect from Coach Cook’s team this week,” concluded Dieterich. “This is an opportunity for our kids to see what it takes to be one of the best programs in the state, if not the best. If we are going to take the Erath program forward, this is the chance for them to see what it takes to play at that level.”
Whatever progress has been made toward that goal in the first season with a new coach, a bigger adjustment lies ahead for Erath. The numbers pretty much tell the story for this league opener.
The top ranked Pios are unbeaten in five games and have answered just about every question coming into the season. It is a reach to try and find a rain cloud over anything the Pios have done this season. But until last week, except for a couple of plays here and there, the running game hasn’t really been what you would call “clicking” for the Pios offense. That concern went away in a hurry with 252 yards against a Eunice team that was favored to win their league. If nothing else, Pios coach Louis Cook can now at least smile about his line play.
“We have a veteran group of linemen, all five of those guys that start played a lot of minutes last year. We shuffled them around a little and we feel good about where they are right now. Our tight ends are first year starters and they have really come around and are helping in the run game. That’s helped the line be even more confident and they opened us some nice holes against Eunice.”
Cook often talks about the three parts of the football season. His Pios earned high marks for the first testing period and now embark on phase two of the plan.
“The big thing for us is to worry about Notre Dame and what we do,” concluded Cook. “We’ve always told the kids it is not as important who we play as to how we play. We use the district games as another step to getting better and getting to where we want to be at the end of the year. Right now we want to keep progressing and put ourselves in a position to be ready for the playoffs. Then we’ll see how far we can go.”
The pieces are in place for another deep run in the playoffs. While it’s still early to be looking that far ahead, it is district opponents in this second phase of the season that will ultimately have anything to say about altering those plans.
The first test is Friday gainst Erath. Kickoff for the Homecoming contest is set 7p.m. at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.