Parkview blanks Pios in semifinals
By: Tom Brown
BATON ROUGE – The signs were there early on and they were all pointing to a tough night for the defending state champ Notre Dame Pioneers. Just as both coaches had predicted, all the clichés would come into deciding this one.
By the end of the evening, Parkview Baptist had answered all the doubters and earned a trip to the Superdome for a 3A matchup against Patterson. The Eagles grounded and pounded the Pios for a 17-0 semifinal win in Baton Rouge Friday, halting a 28-game Notre Dame win streak an untimely one victory from a third straight trip to the finals.
“It’s been a great run and I was hoping for these seniors that have done so much for the program to get one more and get them back to the Dome,” said Pios coach Lewis Cook. “This group of seniors is 52-3 with the finals and two semifinal losses. I would have liked to get them one more. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
There were no surprises as the game got started as expected with tough defense. The Pios won the toss and deferred, probably hoping for an advantage in one of those clichés, field position. They got it after swapping possessions when Pio Tyler Melancon punted 49 yards to the Parkview two.
The Eagles wouldn’t buy it, driving 73 yards on 14 running plays. Parkview fullback Brandon Johnson got a jumpstart on his 103 yard night with six punishing carries for 36 yards between the tackles.
The Pios defense had its moments. On third and two from the ND 26, Parkview went to a veer attack and defending the option is something the Pios do quite well. John Rothermel and Luke Bourgeois dropped QB Jake Clouatre for no gain. On fourth and two, Bourgeois crashed from the backside to catch Clouatre as Jerry Menard was meeting him head on for a gain of only one.
“I thought our defense did a great job,” continued Cook. “As the game went on, they were out there more than they should have been out there. You can’t ask them to keep holding up against that offense, pounding over and over. They fought hard.”
Stu Cook(18-63) got the Pios rolling with a 26 yard burst and a five-yard face mask was tacked on for a first down at the Parkview 44. Two plays later, QB Waylon Young connected over the middle to Zac D’Aquin(5-87) for a 35 yard completion and a first and goal at the Eagles six.
The Parkview defense stiffened and on fourth and goal from the seven Zac D’Aquin attempted a 24 yard field goal. The Eagles pushed the middle to deflect the kick and keep the game scoreless.
“If we score there, maybe it makes a difference in how both teams play from there,” noted Pio Stu Cook. “Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. We moved the ball, but just couldn’t punch it in. It hurts, but not many people can say they won a state championship. My dad, in high school, didn’t even get to play in a playoff game. We’ve been lucky enough to go to the Dome two years. A third time would have been nice, but it has been a pretty good ride.”
Parkview moved to midfield where the Pios got the first break of the game. Linebacker John Rothermel forced a fumble and Austin Bordelon recovered at the Pios 42.
It was the only turnover of the night for Parkview and the beginning of a frustrating night for the Pios offense.
Eagle Paxton Cook intercepted a Waylon Young pass and returned to the Pios 34. Eight plays later, Parkview was just 12 yards up the field and Neil Scott booted a 38 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 1:22 in the half and that would be the score at the break.
Parkview took control of the game in the second half by running the ball and the clock, forcing four turnovers and capitalizing on the big play opportunity. The Pios never found a way to swing the game back in their favor.
“The fact that we had a hard time running the football contributed to a lot of our problems,” added Pios Coach Cook. “We’re not a team that’s going to come in and try and throw it 30 times a game and they forced us into some throws that got us in trouble.”
Parkview failed to produce points after interceptions on the first two ND possessions, missing on a 28 yard field goal attempt. The Pios defense, led by John Rothermel(23), Luke Bourgeois(14), Conner Goss(13) and O’Dazio Thomas(10), was piling up the tackles to keep the score 3-0. Not a good sign.
The third time was the charm for Parkview. A third down Pios swing pass from Young to Cook that was actually a backward lateral and ruled a fumble, was picked off in midair by Eagle linebacker Brody Burkhalter and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
“Our defense has played well all year long and we had the ball enough times and kept it away from them enough to force them into the throwing game,” explained Parkview Coach Kenny Guillot. “Football is football and there are only so many lanes you can throw it up the field. Our coaches did a great job of preparing them and our kids did a good job of covering receivers and being in the right places.”
Trailing 10-0 with ten minutes to play, the Pios punted in hopes of another defensive stop. Parkview took a page from the ND playbook with a 15 play, 8-minute drive, all on the ground.
Brennan Bozeman capped the series with a 7-yard bootleg to make it 17-0, but the story was again Brandon Johnson, who carried nine times, mostly requiring two or three tacklers to bring him down. Eagle Coach Kenny Guillot fed his bruising fullback 23 times in the game and he had positive yardage on all but one carry.
“He was a war daddy out there. He’s a big, strong kid and he wanted the football, so we gave it to him and he certainly was a leader for our team. We didn’t put points on the board early, but we had some good drives where I think we took a little bit out of them and that helped us down the stretch.”
That and the fact that just about everything that has defined Notre Dame football for a long time got flip flopped on this night against perhaps the best opponent the Pios have seen in just as long.
“We’re not disappointed in how we played, we’re disappointed we’re not getting that next game,” added senior defensive end Kevin Johnston. As much as we would like to have that championship again, it’s not just all about that. Being with your friends and sharing the things we have has been pretty special. Watching that clock run down together, nothing can change that feeling. Hopefully, we’ve helped those that come after us keep the tradition going.”
Parkview linebacker Paxton Cook stepped under a curl route for his second interception of the game with 1:48 to play and the Eagles knelt out the clock.
“We had to try and hit some throws,” concluded ND Coach Cook. “One interception was a bad throw, but we had receivers break off routes a couple of times and that wasn’t the quarterbacks fault. Their middle linebacker is just a good player. We haven’t seen a guy get to those areas this year and he got there and made the plays.”
In the end, it was an uncharacteristic Notre Dame night. Parkview Baptist had everything to do with that.
On this night, Parkview was the better team.
The Eagles controlled the ball for 30 of the 48 minutes played by rushing 54 times for 227 yards with only 5 of those rushes for longer than 9 yards. The Eagles were only dropped for a loss on four occasions totaling seven yards.
Meanwhile, the Pios gained just 37 yards on 27 rushing attempts. Take the 26-yard Stu Cook run out of the equation, put the 16 sack yards back in and you get one yard per running play. That’s good defense.
“They returned a lot of guys from last year and they thought it was going to be a good time for them to make a run,” concluded ND Coach Lewis Cook. . If you’re going to go down at this point, at least we did it to a class program. That’s why they have a chance now to win everything.”