Perfect season ends in Dome
By Chris Quebedeaux
NEW ORLEANS – Notre Dame head coach Lewis Cook worried all week about the big-play capability of the Lutcher Bulldogs.
Friday night, it was obvious why he was so concerned.
Cook’s worst fears became reality at the Louisiana Superdome when Lutcher junior quarterback Gavin Webster threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns to lead his Bulldogs to a 17-0 victory over Cook’s Pios in the Class AAA state championship game.
The victory gave Lutcher (12-2) its third state championship in six years. The Pios, who finished the 2008 season 13-1, fell for the fourth consecutive time in the state finals.
“They (Lutcher) just have too many weapons,” said Cook, following the loss. “You are going to stop them some, but at some point, they are going to hit a crease every now and then.”
The Bulldogs, who had stunned Cecilia with their big-play capabilities one week earlier, repeatedly staggered the Pios behind their speedy trio of Webster and receivers Reginald Jackson and Jarvis Landry.
The three accounted for nearly all of the Bulldogs’ 312 yards of total offense and the majority of Lutcher’s turf gems.
“They were just better than we were,” said Cook. “We just didn’t have enough firepower.”
The Bulldogs’ offensive prowess was evident from the first play of the game, when Webster overthrew a wide-open Landry, who had beaten the Pios secondary 40 yards downfield.
They eventually punted and, after holding the Pios, began a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive to deliver the first blow to the Pios.
The drive was highlighted by a trio of big plays, beginning with a third-and-7 conversion when Webster hit Jackson for 11 yards to the ND 43.
Two plays later, Webster found Brandon St. Pierre for 15 more yards and on the next play, he hit Jackson on a slant for an uncontested 20-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs added another score late in the second quarter when Dustin St. Pierre booted a 24-yard field to put the Dogs up 10-0 with just over three minutes remaining in the half. On that series, the Pios held the Bulldogs on three straight plays from the 2-yard line to force the field goal.
Earlier in the quarter, Lutcher drove to the Notre Dame 19 before a sack by Michael Dysart and Jacob Molbert set the Dogs back 15 yards and forced a punt.
“If there was no scoreboard on and you just watched the game, you would have sworn that it was 24-0 at the half,” said Cook, whose team was outgained 212-26 in the first 24 minutes. “But it was 10-0. Our defense just kept hanging and hanging.”
Despite the huge disparity in yardage, the Pios were still alive and Cook reminded them of that.
“I told the kids that we were just one play away from getting back into it,” he said. “We just could never get anything going to turn the field (position) over.”
The Pios, who played their second straight game without star quarterback Ryan Leonards, appeared to finally get their offense untracked to begin the second half. But by the end of the game, they had crossed midfield just once while posting just 75 yards in total offense.
The 75 yards by the Pios was the fewest yards gained by any Class AAA team in a state championship game and was the second fewest of any team in any division in a state championship (John Curtis held St. Charles to 56 yards in 2006).
“The big question for us was: could we get some offense going?” said Cook, who was forced to trim his offensive game plan due to the absence of Leonards. “In the first half, obviously, we couldn’t. We never could get the field turned over. It just wasn’t going to happen for us in the first half.”
The Pios did manage three first downs during the final 24 minutes, but they never threatened to score as the Bulldogs continually harassed the younger Cook (1-11-7-1) and Pios backs.
The Pios’ deepest penetration of the night, in fact, was the Lutcher 44.
“We tried to not have our defense play as many downs in the second half and we hoped we could break something (offensively) but we just never could,” said coach Cook. “We just couldn’t get on the board. The little bit we got going, we just couldn’t sustain it.”
Cook said he was surprised that the Bulldogs were able to put as much pressure as they did on the Pios’ offense.
“But they did a good job of mixing up their fronts,” he said. “I knew they would just try to load up on us, knowing our situation at quarterback.”
Notre Dame’s defense tightened up in the second half, holding the Bulldogs scoreless until late in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs put an exclamation point on their victory with another touchdown.
Facing a fourth-and-8 from the Notre Dame 26, Webster went to Landry, as he did seven other times during the game, for the score. Landry, who had eight catches for 119 yards and 8 carries for 49 more) made an acrobatic catch, one-hand catch in the corner of the end zone.
“That’s my go-to guy,” said Webster of Landry. “If everyone else is covered, I just have to throw it up there and let him go get it. He made a great catch.”
“They (Lutcher) dominated the game,” said Cook. “They won it up front. We came in saying they were going to have to throw it and they hit two passes (for touchdowns). They hit a couple others but I thought our guys did a really good job defensively.”
Webster’s 243 yards passing and 55 yards rushing were good enough to earn him the Outstanding Player Award for Lutcher.
Notre Dame defensive lineman Jacob Molbert earned the Outstanding Player award for the Pios after logging six tackles and three and a half sacks.