Notre Dame renews playoff rivalry with Parkview Baptist

CROWLEY – Two teams that have become models of success in Louisiana high school football will square off Friday night at Gardiner Memorial Stadium. Notre Dame hosts Parkview Baptist and one of them is going home after the second round playoff game.

Pios Coach Lewis Cook and Eagles coach Kenny Guillot keep churning out teams that have dominated Class 3A over the past decade. With a combined five state titles and more trips to the Superdome than many schools make in a lifetime, each game between Notre Dame and Parkview is like a title game, no matter the week it is played.

“This is a game that probably should be played a little later down the road but we both have to deal with it,” notes Pios Coach Lewis Cook. “The power system may not be accomplishing what everybody wants, but it is better than what we had. Some teams are obviously seeded higher than they should be and are getting beat by teams that are way down in the bracket. Look at Baton Rouge Central in 5A who would not have even been in the playoffs but they finished in a three way tie for first in district and bumped a team at 32. Then they knock off the #1 seed St. Paul in the opening round. The system gives you a better chance to be where you should be, but there are always flaws.”

These are two teams that live by the motto of throwing the record books out the window. It’s not like they aren’t familiar with what the other is going to do, this being their sixth playoff meeting in eleven years. It just doesn’t seem to matter how they got there, once they are there.

“As many times as we’ve played each other, including the past two seasons, there aren’t any real secrets we can keep from one another,” said Pios coach Lewis Cook. “It should be a heck of a game between two teams that are a lot alike. We both want to run the ball and play defense and the key will be which team can find some offense.”

Notre Dame has made ten trips to the semifinals in the last eleven seasons. Is it any surprise that the one miss was a quarterfinal loss at Parkview in 2005?

The Eagles were the spoilers again last season, knocking the Pios out in a semifinal game at Parkview.

“I think Parkview’s kids went into the game last year remembering our win in the championship the year before and they probably took that on the field with them. I know our semifinal game at Parkview last year will be on everybody’s mind, so you have to hope it is a motivation to play your best and that your players get past playing for last year and focus on this game.”

Parkview started the season with three losses in its first four games. But those losses were all to 5A playoff teams Mandeville (8-2), Scotlandville (8-2) and East St. John (7-3).

Key injuries and youthful replacements for departed starters had the Eagles facing much the same adjustments that Notre Dame went through in the early season.

“They did end up shuffling several players and it didn’t seem to work out like they wanted,” said ND’s Cook. “They basically put everybody back and replaced just the fullback. Then they lost their quarterback for a couple of weeks and that is why they were sitting 1-3 at one point in the season.”

The loss of 6-1, 235 pound fullback Brandon Johnson to a season ending injury was a crushing blow to the Eagles. The senior pounded the Pios defense for 103 yards last year after gaining 990 yards in the regular season.

Parkview eventually settled on moving junior Conner Hodgeson (6-0, 200) from rover on defense to the fullback position. Junior tailback Hezekiah Randolph (6-0, 215) shares the backfield and more importantly, junior quarterback Brennan Bozeman (6-0, 180) returned from injury to pull together the Parkview flexbone offense.

“It’s an option offense and they have several things they can do out of it,” added Cook. “We’ve seen it before and it requires we stay disciplined on defense, cover all the angles and be prepared to handle individual assignments.”

In a 42-13 win over Loyola Prep last week, Parkview spread the duties pretty equally among that trio. Hodgeson gained 78 yards on 18 carries and has run for over 500 yards since making the move to fullback. Randolph carried 11 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Bozeman called his number 10 times for 65 yards and completed 4 of 7 passes for 60 yards, all four completions going to Austin Suits.

“There’s no doubt, it is going to come down to execution both offensively and defensively to determine who plays best,” said ND’s Cook. “Two years ago, we were able to control the football for all but two minutes of the fourth quarter in the Dome. They reversed that on us last year and were able to win. Whichever team takes control of the line of scrimmage and can do that on offense will have the better chance to win.

The Parkview defense will be a physical challenge for the Pios offense to accomplish that. Class 3A Defensive MVP of last season, Tom Bove, anchors the defensive front. The 6-0, 270 pound nose guard recorded 47 tackles last year with 12 of those being tackles for loss and another 11 being sacks. He is having the same type season flanked by tackles Ben Bagwell (6-0, 210, Sr) and Alex Guinn (5-11, 195, So).

Senior linebacker Brody Burkhalter (6-2, 200) had 12 tackles, six for loss, and a 29 yard interception return for a touchdown in the playoff opener last week. Josh Perkins (6-1, 215) and Adam Smith (6-0, 205) man the other linebacker spots for the Eagles.

If numbers is still your thing, Notre Dame has a few they can throw around, too!

The Pios have rushed for 2,369 yards and 26 touchdowns over land. Luke Broussard leads the ball carriers with 966 yards, 11 TDs and a 6.7 yard per carry average. Nick Gossen missed a couple of games with an injury, but still has totaled 826 yards and seven scores. Fullback Austin Thibodeaux averages six yards a run with 296 total.

Quarterback Waylon Young is on the heels of a 9-for-9 game with 221 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, Young has 1,281 yards and 14 TDs. Josef Schmid leads the receiving corps with 612 yards and 7 touchdowns on 39 catches. Blake Miller has 16 receptions for 409 yards and 4 TDs.

On defense, Zack Miller and Jacob Melancon have helped pick up for the loss of Conner Goss at linebacker with 86 and 83 tackles. C.J. Hundley (84) and Paul LaCroix (78) anchor the line, each with 15 tackles for loss, Hundley adding two sacks and LaCroix with 5 sacks.

All those numbers look great on paper, but it still comes down to what happens on the field this week. That will also be influenced by all that has surrounded this matchup for over a decade, including the coaching staffs.

“There is a mutual respect from one staff to the other in that we both take pride in what has been accomplished,” said Cook. “It is a feather in your cap when you can go up against a program like Parkview and come out on top. There is a reason why Notre Dame and Parkview have been to the Superdome as much as we have. Coaches and players take pride in going against that type competition and measuring yourself.”

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