Notre Dame takes on Parkview Baptist for spot in Class 3A finals

By: Tom Brown
CROWLEY – Notre Dame has passed the quarterfinal test to remain at the head of the class in the 3A playoffs.

The Pios will make their 10th semifinal appearance in the past 11 seasons with the Friday trip to Baton Rouge against No. 5 seed Parkview Baptist.

The Pios and Eagles have had nothing but big games in their playoff history and this rematch of Dome finalists from last season could be the best ever.

Parkview Coach Kenny Guillot feels you can apply all the same old coaching clichés to this fifth playoff meeting in 10 years.

“We have to win the field position battle, not have any turnovers and hope for a close ball game,” said Guillot. “I think defense will play a big role on how all that plays out and it could be one play here or there that determines the outcome. They are well coached, they play hard and they are physical. Those are things you may not always know about a team before seeing films, but we know that about Notre Dame.”

The Pios have met all challenges on both sides of the ball.

For Notre Dame Coach Lewis Cook, this game against this opponent will have a title game atmosphere and will probably play out very much the same as previous games.

“When you consider we have both had mostly the same coaching staffs and not a lot has changed over the years, we’re probably more familiar with each other than other teams,” said Cook. “They haven’t gone much off what they were doing in ’01, ’03 and ’05 when we played. Usually when we play it means one or the other of us is going to be in the finals and this is a championship type game just being played a week earlier.

“In ‘03 when we beat them 21-14 and last year in the 14-7 win, it was a couple of plays that were made in the game at the right time that made the difference. I think that will pretty much be what determines this game.”

Last week’s 39-8 win over Carroll was a major hurdle for the Pios. Speedy, athletic teams with big play capability have been an Achilles heel of sorts in past seasons. For six minutes last Friday, it looked like it might again be a deal breaker.

Carroll quarterback Jamond Collins led his team on an 80-yard scoring drive to start the game. The next 22 plays netted a minus eight yards as that defense set up the Pios offense for scores on six straight possessions.

Notre Dame has now won 28 straight games since the ’08 finals loss to Lutcher. Those numbers are great to talk about but Cook knows it doesn’t get you to the final goal.

“It’s something we really never talk about just like the four-year streak our seniors have in the regular season. These guys are not really concerned with those types of things. They just try every week to get 48 more minutes to play and we’re still in it for another game which is all that matters.”

That Lutcher game was also the last time a Pios secondary has been victimized by big plays. That has been as much a key to defensive success as the solid contributions up front and hawking linebacker play.

All-State senior safety Rick Stoma leads the Pios with six interceptions and junior defensive back D. J. Petitjean has picked off four passes this season. But the piece that seems to make the puzzle fit is senior cornerback Luke Bourgeios.

Teams are already aware of his threat to score on any punt return. What many are realizing this season is that Bourgeois can be classified as a “shut down” corner.

“I think it’s a combination of good players, great coaching with a good scheme and a lot of guys working hard every week to do their job and make us better as a team. We’ve kind of taken the mentality that you’re going to have to complete 20 short passes in one drive to beat us because we’re not going to give you the big play.”

Opponents are averaging just 72 yards in the air and 183 total against the Notre Dame defense. Keep in mind a big portion of that has come in the fourth quarter when the game is well in hand and the starters have gone to the sideline for the evening.

“After seeing a lot of teams get beat with these athletic guys flying down the field, something inside of you makes you work harder to not let the same thing happen to you. Ricky (Stoma) covers a lot of ground back there and takes the deep routes away and with the rush we get up front, that allows us to do more on the short routes. Our coaches do such a great job of preparing us for what to expect each week and it all comes together on the field.”

Bourgeois and the secondary will be a key in the road to the Dome this week against Parkview. The Eagles can move the ball through the air and their power running attack will test the added duty of run support.

Parkview returned 13 starters from the runner up team of last year. The Eagles have won 10 games with their two losses coming to 5A powers Acadiana (28-14) and Dutchtown (10-3).

“I think it’s hard to compare this team to last year,” noted Parkview coach Kenny Guillot. “We lost our starting quarterback after our third game, so this team has a little different chemistry. What we do have is tradition. Like Notre Dame, our kids expect to make the playoffs and make a run. This is not a new ride for them or us. Both teams approach the season much the same way in that our goals are quite similar and a state championship is the ambition of all our teams.”

Parkview has coasted through the first three playoff rounds with wins over Bogalusa (50-14), Loranger (41-7) and E.D. White (46-6). Last week against the Cardinals, Parkview used 12 different rushers in gaining 406 yards on the ground.

Junior fullback Brandon Johnson (6-1, 215) leads the Eagles with 881 yards and 8 TDs. Johnson carried 14 times for 129 yards and busted a 42-yard scoring run last week. Senior running back Garrett Banta (6-2, 190) has added over 600 yards and nine touchdowns.

“The one thing you will notice a little different is they are not utilizing the quarterback as much with the option,” added Cook. “When they lost their quarterback early in the year, the offense started leaning a little more toward power type running and misdirection. We did a pretty good job against them last year and against everything that has been thrown at us this year. We’ll just have to see how we hold up to know if that is an advantage.”

Sophomore QB Brennan Bozeman (6-0, 175) has stepped in to take most of the snaps and ran 13 yards for a score against E.D. White. The top target in the passing game is Russell Reynolds (6-1, 280). The junior caught four passes for 64 yards and touchdowns of 10 and three yards in the quarterfinals. He is flanked by senior Tucker Hitt (6-2, 210) on the target list.

The Parkview attack is keyed by its impressive offensive front that averages six feet and 245 pounds. Seniors Luke Thornton (6-0, 240) and Jason Mejeur (6-2, 260) anchor the left side of the line and junior Taylor Krone (6-2, 230) joins Tyler Sheperd (5-11, 250, Sr) on the right side.

“Weight wise and size wise we’ve faced teams that are about the same, but no one blocks like they do on the offensive front,” added Coach Cook. “On defense, they run a 3-3 stack with three linebackers behind three down linemen and a cover three secondary for a lot of blitz potential. They bring the safeties up and one guy will go one way and the backer the other way. They come from the outside and they come inside with a strong safety and use the backers to drop in coverage.”

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