Notre Dame rolls past North Vermilion

BY TOM BROWN

LSN STAFF WRITER

LAFAYETTE – Looks can be deceiving.

At times it looked like Notre Dame might be having difficulty with the North Vermilion offense. Other times it looked like the Pios offense was its own worst enemy with untimely penalties.

At the end of the night, though, it was another balanced offense with 151 yards on the ground and 140 through the air, a fourth straight shutout for the defense and another opponent held under a hundred yards as the Patriots could muster just 67 rushing and 5 passing yards.

Just another dominating performance as the Pios stormed past North Vermilion, 21-0, Thursday night at Lafayette’s St. Thomas More High School.

“I knew this was not going to be an easy game,” explained Pios coach Louis Cook. “They’re good on defense and people don’t realize that when you’re good on defense you’re always going to be in the game. They move around a lot and do a lot of things to make it hard on you.”

Notre Dame did not score on the first play this week. Ryan Leonards could not pass for a first play TD because Morgan Allen was pushed down on his route to prevent that from happening a fourth time. After the 15-yard pass interference penalty, the Pios capped a 78 yard drive when Stu Cook burst off right tackle for a 10-yard touchdown. Stephen Benoit added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Leonards did hook up with Allen for two key completions on the drive. A quick slant went for 22 yards and a first down at the Pats 41. On third down at the 23, Allen went high on a square out at the Pios sideline and touched down for a 13 yard gain.

“The offense did a great job on that first drive and it was big for us to go ahead early like that,” continued coach Cook. “Going into the wind like it was, that was like a 12th man out there for the defense. Ryan did a great job, rifled some nice passes and to take that first drive in against the wind was a big lift for us.”

North Vermilion attacked straight ahead with inside running and put together a 17-play drive that moved the ball from the Patriot 18 to the Notre Dame 30. On a third and ten pass attempt, Pio Hunter Stover broke through to hit QB Jared Broussard and cause a fumble recovered by the Pats and resulting in a punt to end the threat.

The Pios responded with a ten play scoring drive. QB Leonards hooked up with Zac D’Aquin for nine yards on the first of his three catches in the drive. On fourth and inches Leonards followed his linemen for the first down to keep the offense on the field.

At the Patriots 42, Leonards hit D’Aquin on a quick slant and the junior receiver turned the short completion into an 18 yard gain. On the next play, D’Aquin lined up at the left hash mark and streaked for the goal line pylon. Leonards arched a perfect strike at the North Vermilion 15 and D’Aquin outran defenders to the end zone.

“We weren’t really trying to set anything up on the back-to-back passes,” noted D’Aquin. “Our offense is all about taking what’s given to us and that’s just how it played out. We had run that a couple of plays before and I was wide open, but Ryan had to run out the other direction. We went back to it and the DB was lined up way off of me. It was a go route and when I got to his outside shoulder I just faded to the sideline and Ryan put the ball right out in front of me.”

The 40 yard TD pass capped a 3-minute, 53-second drive to give the Pios a two touchdown lead. A kickoff return to the Pios 46 gave North Vermilion one more chance before halftime. Sacks by Jacob Molbert and Will Fruge ended the half with Notre Dame ahead, 14-0, and coach Lewis Cook breathing a little easier.

“Getting that big play in the second quarter made it a little more comfortable for us at halftime,” said Cook. “ Zac did a really nice job running under the ball. He’s made some big plays, some third down catches for us the last few weeks and Ryan has probably gotten a little more confident in going to both sides now. The design of what we were doing just gave Zac a few more opportunities in the game and it’s nice with those two now because if teams load up on Morgan, Zac will make them pay for it on the other side.”

Notre Dame had a chance to ice the game after an exchange of possessions to start the third quarter. Jacob Molbert and John Rothermel combined to drop Pats QB Jared Broussard for a 10-yard loss on first down and Seth Fruge sacked the NV QB on second down for a loss of nine.

After a Luke Bourgeois punt return to the Pats 35, two penalties pushed the Pios back to mid field. On second and 35, D’Aquin came in motion to the right and turned straight up field at the snap, splitting the safety and corner. Leonards fired a bullet and D’Aquin nearly broke it for another score before being tripped up at the Pats ten. The catch gave D’Aquin 103 yards on 4 catches, but the drive was halted when Leonards was intercepted at the Patriots two yard line.

The Pios defense stopped North Vermilion on three plays. Jacob Molbert dropped tailback Jabian Kern for a two yard loss on first down. On second down, QB Jared Broussard met tackle O’Dazia Thomas (12 tackles), end Kacey Mire (10 tackles) and the rest of the defensive line for no gain. On third down linebacker D.J. Welter logged one of his team leading 13 tackles by helping drop Broussard near the goal line.

“We didn’t think he got out, we thought we had him in the end zone for the safety,” smiled D.J. Welter. “We were able to do what we wanted by keeping them inside and taking the pitch away. They had to try and wedge it inside and that helped us keep them from breaking any long runs. We kind of wanted to make a statement when we had them at the two yard line and at least get offense back out there for a score.”

The resulting 11-yard punt set Notre Dame up at the Pats 12 yard line. On first down Stu Cook slashed off the block of center Hunter Bordelon and broke tackles at the eight and five to score standing up on the final play of the third quarter and make it 21-0.

Notre Dame rushed on all 14 plays of a drive that did not produce a score, but did consume almost eight minutes of the fourth quarter. The Pios defense cancelled two short Patriot drives to put the finishing touches on the game clock.

The top ranked Pios are unbeaten in nine games and unscored upon in league play. Notre Dame closes the regular season on the road at 8-1, 4-0, Kaplan, for the district 5-3A Championship next Friday night.

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