Pios clash with Wolves for state title berth

By Lance Reed

LSN STAFF WRITER

CROWLEY – The Notre Dame Pios are holding their tickets to the Class 3A State Championship. They can seen the prize on the top of the hill! All of their hard work from January has paid off and they have only one more hurdle to cross - the Redemptorist Wolves.

The Wolves will be leaving The Rock to come to Gardiner Memorial Stadium Friday to meet the Pioneers of Notre Dame in the Class 3A semi-finals. The winner gets the winner of the Lutcher and Cecilia contest.

“We haven’t changed things a lot this week because of the game,” said Notre Dame head coach Lewis Cook. “Last week it was the same scenario. You have to play hard this week so that you can play next week. If you don’t, you stay home. The kids know that and we try and make everything fun for them. You have to survive in order to go one more week.”

The Pios and the Wolves have a long history of battling each other in crucial contests. The Pios won the Class 3A state championship over the Wolves. Redemptorist defeated Notre Dame in the 2005 state title game in Shreveport. That was after the Pios had defeated the Wolves earlier in the season. In 2006, Notre Dame handed the Wolves a week two defeat at The Rock. This year, the Pios and Wolves are both trying to return to the title game for the first time since 2005. Unfortunately, only one team will go.

The Wolves got to the semi-final game with a 7-0 victory over defending state champion Parkview Baptist. The Wolves scored in the second quarter and managed to hold on to the victory. The Wolves score came off of a botched punt attempt from the Eagles. Two plays later, Redemptorist’s Jonathan Green scored on a four-yard run.

Redemptorist’s offense produced only 157 yards of total offense in the contest against PBS. The two teams combined for 13 punts in the game and there were nearly 200 yards in penalties.

The Wolves offense revolves around big plays. Like Richwood and Alexandria, they love to spread out an opposing defense and create room to use their speed. The unit returned only two starters from last year’s semi-final team. Green is the playmaker for the Wolves. He rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries against PBS and ran for 155 yards against St. Charles the week before. In two weeks, he has scored nearly all of the Wolves’ touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior has a 40-yard dash time of 4.55 and seems to be the fastest man who carries the ball for RHS.

First-year starting quarterback Deuce Coon runs the offense. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound signal caller does a lot of running with the ball and has a powerful arm. Besides lacking experience, the biggest drawback for Cook is his accuracy. He was just 1-11 against PBS and hardly had to throw the ball against St. Charles because of the RHS running game.

The RHS offensive line is anchored by senior center Adam Lemoine who is the lone returner in the trenches. While the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder is not small, he is not the largest of the linemen that all tip the 210-pound mark. First-year starters Chris Harrington and Clint Bourgeous are a pair of towers. Both stand at 6-foot-3 although Bourgeois is the heavier at 265 pounds. Next to Alexandria and Breaux Bridge, this will be the largest offensive line the Pios have faced.

The receiver core of the Wolves is very versatile. Green blends in with the receivers and is a weapon along with them. Sophomore Tremon Mims touches the sky standing at 6-foot-6 and 180-pounds. Though rarely thrown too, Mims is the tallest receiver on the squad. Tight end T.J. McKnight runs rough and is a good target at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. Running backs Aaron Kowal and Jeremy Hill also do a lot of work in the receiving core. They will come out of the backfield and they make good targets.

Overall, the Redemptorist offense averages over 300 yards of total offense per game, but only put up 23 points. Turnovers and penalties have often stopped the Wolves on offensive drives. They are known for big plays that result in touchdowns. They are usually one play from scoring at any spot on the field.

After taking the game on their backs and running with it for an entire half of football, the NDHS defense has to have the confidence that they can do it again. The Richwood Rams had the ball in Pioneer territory for every snap of the second half and barely managed to find the end zone. This week, they may have to repeat that performance.

“All year long they have been doing what it takes to help us win,” Cook said of his stubborn defense unit that gave up only its sixth touchdown of the year. “They can do it again. The effort they gave last week was amazing against a very good bunch of troopers.”

The Wolves strength comes from their defense. A dominating unit that has nine returners back from last year’s squad. The Wolves give up 10 points a game and surrender 183 yards of offense to opponents. Their 4-2-5 defensive front has shown its vulnerability. After totally shutting down the Eagles last week and holding them to 96 yards on the ground and 11 yards in the air, it appears the RHS D-unit is where it wants to be. However, they did surrender 24 points and 308 yards of total offense to Lions of Capitol earlier in the year. They also allowed 278 yards and 18 points to Kaplan in one half. So the defense of RHS does have its holes. It will be interesting to see which D-unit shows up Friday night. One thing the Wolves have been fortunate about is they have not faced a starting quarterback since week one of the playoffs. St. Charles, Parkview and now Notre Dame have all had to start backup quarterbacks.

The Wolves revolve around weakside linebacker Brandon Nash. The senior leads the team in tackles with 112. The 5-foot-11 athlete, who tips the scale at 215 pounds, also has six sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. He has become the leader of the team on defense. How he goes is how the powerful RHS defense goes.

The defensive line is very similar to the Richwood line. Senior defensive end Trevor Bradley is the anchor in the trenches. The third-year starter stands at 6-foot-1 and piles on 220 pounds. He has 65 tackles and four sacks this year. The remainder of the defensive line tips the 220 mark on the scale. The battle in the trenches should be a very good one.

“We hope to get some good runs going this week because the guy pulling the trigger won’t exactly have the most experience,” said Cook. We are not going to change a whole lot of things and give the game away. We are going to do what we need to so that we have a chance.”

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