Pios on Honor Roll as league play begins
By: Tom Brown
CROWLEY – Mid-term grades have been posted and the top ranked Notre Dame Pioneers are on the way to another Phi Beta Kappa season. The Pios won for the 34th straight time in the regular season last Friday at Eunice in the final pop quiz before District 5-3A play.
There is little question that Notre Dame has hit the books hard and adjusted to the lesson plan. The results have been just as obvious.
“You have to be happy with the way we are playing and heading toward doing what we want to do on the field, but you don’t want to peak right now,” noted Pios coach Lewis Cook. “We want to keep getting better at what we are doing and be making that surge up and playing our best football at the latter part of the season.”
So, here’s our take after five weeks in the classroom. For the record, the coaches had no input on our grading.
PIOS REPORT CARD
It’s hard to argue any other mark for a 5-0 team that hasn’t lost a regular season game for three and a half years. St. Louis was a close call, but the Pios found a way to win. The opener against Teurlings was eye opening, Breaux Bridge was not as explosive on offense, but they didn’t score either, Christian Life was a good practice and Eunice was easier than expected.
The bar was set high last season and this defense has jumped up, grabbed it and done a few chin ups on it.
Eight players started the year in different positions and it hasn’t seemed to matter.
The secondary has been almost unbeatable with Ricky Stoma returning three interceptions for scores and Luke Bourgeois having a hand in 32 tackles.
John Rothermel moved to middle linebacker and leads the team with 58 tackles, five for losses, a sack and five forced fumbles. Will Fruge has added 30 tackles, 3 for losses, with an interception and a fumble recovery. Kevin Johnston went from safety to end and has logged 22 tackles, eight for losses, three sacks and six QB hits. Johnston has also blocked a punt, recovered that block for a TD and recorded a tackle for a safety. Jerry Menard leads the front with 29 tackles, five of those for losses, and a sack.
As impressive as the defense has been, St. Louis was able to move the ball as well as anyone has the past few seasons against Notre Dame. The coverage lapse late in the game almost cost the Pios a win so there is still room to improve the grade.
“I didn’t think we would be as far along as we are with eight guys in new positions, but they are all experienced players,” continued Cook. “Even against St. Louis, they would get a nice run on us and the next two would be for losses. So, I think the defense is in a pretty good place right now.”
After a shaky start, the playbook has opened up and the Pios are resembling the style of the record setting ’09 season.
Junior Waylon Young stepped in at QB for the third game and the offense is back to doing the things they are best at. Stu Cook has regained his big play explosiveness from the backfield and in the slot as a receiver. Logan Venable leads an improving ground game averaging five yards a carry with a breakaway speed burst and Zac D’Aquin can get open deep from anywhere on the field.
Up front, there have been some wrinkles thrown at the line with injuries and illness to battle through, but the ground game has put together late drives when needed, Cook has busted some highlight reel runs and Venable is keeping drives alive with first down runs off the edge. This is a potential “A” over the back half of the season.
“”We could have been in the same position we are now, but it would have been a little more of a struggle without the changes,” added Cook. “We’ve moved some guys around up front and they are getting some valuable experience, but if we can ever settle in on six or seven guys for several weeks it will get us where we need to be.”
Kicking Game B+
For the most part, kicking has been solid. Zac D’Aquin has taken over the place kicking and his field goal was the margin against St. Louis. He has hit the only two field goals asked to attempt and kickoffs have often found the end zone.
Punter Tyler Melancon averages 38 yards a kick and has four kicks downed inside the twenty.
Both are outstanding, but there has been a blocked punt, some missed extra points and a couple of adventures along the way. Like your sixth grade teacher, this is another area we’re picking on for improvement since not everything can be perfect at mid term.
Special Teams - A
We’re splitting the returns out of the kicking game because that phase has been outstanding. Luke Bourgeois hasn’t broken one for a score yet, but he has been awful close. More importantly, punt and kick returns have kept opponents backed up and kept the Pios in great position on a shortened field. But we want a return TD!
“Hopefully, we’ll get one soon,” laughed Luke Bourgeois who is averaging 10 yards on punt returns and 28 on kickoffs. “On punts we pick one side and try to get to the wall. If it’s not there, you just try to get as many yards as possible up the middle. Our blocking has been getting better and we hope to get one soon.”
CUMULATIVE GRADE - A
The Pios will put their scholarly achievements to test at Erath Thursday night in a contest moved from the original Friday date.
Coach Destin Dieterich began his second campaign at Erath with expectations for great improvement. The Bobcats were winless in league play last season and finished 3-7 in a year of change.
Erath opened with wins over Berwick (34-7), Catholic, NI (28-14) and Vermilion Catholic (48-21). Senior tailback Aaron Darby (5-7, 155) was lost to injury early in a week four loss to West St. Mary (23-12) and Erath blew a 19-0 lead in losing to Church Point (27-26) last week.
“They are definitely improved over last year and might be 5-0 had they not lost Darby,” explains Cook. “They ran for over 300 yards last week and had a big pass play. Now they will have had another week to adjust to him not being in there.”
Erath will spread the ball in their option attack with speedy junior RB Cody Bourque (5-9, 155) and QB Mikey Seymour (5-9, 145, Sr) leading the attack. Seymour rushed for 145 yards last week and Bourque gained 60 on seven carries.
“Offensively, they were moving it on everybody,” said Cook. They are aggressive and fly around on defense. They’ve given up a lot of yards but they are good enough to compliment the offense.”
Notre Dame’s defensive front and linebackers are spending so much time in opponent backfields that Erath may have more to worry about than their offense.
“From the second quarter on against Eunice, that was probably our most complete game,” concludes ND coach Cook. “It’s a brand new season and we’re all starting over. I’m sure they’ll be ready for us and I know we’ll be prepared for another tough game.”