Pios top Kaplan for 5-3A crown

CROWLEY – The streak will live on to the senior class of next season.

Four years and 39 straight regular season wins without a loss. As in the past three seasons, the streak came down to a week ten shootout for the District 5-3A title.

Once again, the Pios were up to the challenge.

Notre Dame capped another undefeated regular season and sent Kaplan walking the plank in a 35-7 win Thursday night at Gardiner Stadium. Coupled with the Parkview win over Redemptorist, Notre Dame will likely regain the top seed in the 3A playoff bracket.

“You get this far and you get that close, it was really wearing me out,” laughed Pios coach Lewis Cook. “The first game and the last game are the toughest and to be undefeated and be so close, all week I was thinking how I didn’t want them to lose. It is a great accomplishment for them, but there is a lot of work left to be done.”

Kaplan made things interesting with conservative running and a five minute opening drive. The Pirates were stopped on a fourth down play at the Pios 28 and after an exchange of punts, Notre Dame had the ball at the Kaplan 36.

Waylon Young hit Zac D’Aquin over the middle for a 16-yard completion on third and 11. On fourth and seven from the 17, Young hooked up with D’Aquin again for a gain of 13 yards.

With first and goal at the four, Logan Venable took the handoff and slanted off left tackle, getting a block at the goal line from Jacob Melancon for a touchdown. Conner Goss kicked the point after to put the Pios up 7-0 with 1:43 to go in the opening quarter.

Kaplan’s Jalen Baker brought the Pirates right back to ND territory with a 45-yard kickoff return. The Pirates converted a fourth down pass to drive inside the Pios ten, but on fourth and two at the eight, Baker was held to no gain when Jerry Menard and John Rothermel crashed the left side of the Pirates line to make the stop for no gain.

“They were having their way early, executing some drives,” added Cook. “We were a little anxious and got ahead of the ball a couple of times which let them make some plays. Turning them away and following it up with scores changed the game. We didn’t make any major changes, I just told our guys to concentrate and execute the plan.”

ND’s D.J. Petitjean intercepted a third down pass at the Kaplan 42 and returned it down the left sideline inside the Pirates ten. A holding penalty backed up the return to the Kaplan 23 and just made the scoring drive a little longer.

Young went back to the air on third and long, finding Drew Trahan for a diving catch at the Pirates ten that gained 13 yards. Cook gained four up the middle and Venable got two off right tackle.

On third and goal, Young faked to Venable up the middle and handed to Luke Besse on a counter around the left side. Cook and guard Brannon Trahan led Besse around the left side untouched. D’Aquin’s PAT made it 14-0 with 5:15 to go in the half.

The Pios defense forced another punt to the ND 38. Three plays and 42 seconds later the score was 21-0.

Venable took it around the right side for 14 yards on first down. From the Kaplan 46, Young threw to D’Aquin streaking straight up the hash marks for a 26-yard completion.

Stu Cook swept right on first down from the 22, cut back to the middle and burst past the secondary for the score and a 21-0 halftime lead.

“We had to play perfect and for a little while we did,” explained Kaplan coach Stephen Lotief. “We didn’t convert on fourth down, had a chance to get off the field and couldn’t. We had some chances, had play option a couple of times with guys open and sputtered. Whenever you get those chances you have to capitalize. We didn’t and that wore on us.”

Any hopes Kaplan had of a second half rally were sunk by a couple of cannon shots into the bow of the Pirates ship. Luke Bourgeois brought ND out of the locker room with a kickoff return to mid field and sparked two quick Pios scores in the opening minutes of the third quarter.

Logan Venable swept right for eleven yards into Kaplan territory. From the 43, Stu Cook took a quick handoff up the middle, slipped a tackle and cut left away from the flow. Angling to the corner, he wouldn’t be touched until the end zone making it 28-0.

“Watching their films, we saw they had a tendency to over pursue,” noted the senior tailback. “We felt if we could get in open space we could attack with one cut and go and our offensive line was the key to that with the way they were coming off the ball.”

The next possession was much of the same. After Luke Besse ran for 8 yards, Waylon young found Zac D’Aquin going vertical up the hash marks again for 11 yards. On first down from the Kaplan 44, Young went over the middle to tight end Jackson Landry and he carried tacklers for a 24 yard gain.

From the twenty, Stu Cook started right and sprinted through a gaping hole opened by blocks from Venable, Besse and Pete Petitjean. The 20-yard TD run pushed Cook over a hundred yards rushing for the night and came with 7:35 to play in the third quarter for a 35-0 ND lead.

Kaplan never could get their explosive ground game sailing against the Pios. Fullback Joshua Greene was held to 40 yards on ten carries and speedster Jalen Baker gained just 29 yards on nine carries.

“Baker made a couple of good runs early, but the key for us was limiting the fullback Greene,” summed up Cook. “A couple of times it looked like he was coming out of there, but our defense didn’t let him get loose. Once the trap play got shut down we were able to focus on some other things they were doing. Our defense got physical, put some good shots on them with tackles and it looked like they got a little frustrated.”

Pios linebacker John Rothermel helped stuff the run with a game high 16 tackles. Coaxed to pass, that didn’t work out very well either. Defensive end Kevin Johnston put a hit on Pirates QB Kameron Abshire for an incompletion and Rothermel stepped in for an interception to end the third quarter.

Kaplan got a late score when Jante Rutland ran 41 yards for a touchdown with 5:05 to play. ND’s Brent Sonnier recovered a Kaplan fumble with 1:36 to play and keep the final score, 35-7.

For the team that opened the season with 600 yards of offense, Kaplan gained just 57 yards rushing and 101 total first half yards. Over 70 of those yards came on the opening drive and one pass at the end of the first quarter.

The Pirates were held to 106 yards in the second half. Over 80 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was decided.

“We were playing to stop the run and make them throw the ball the whole game because we knew we would have good coverage and do what had to be done to come out on top,” noted safety Ricky Stoma.

“Stopping them on fourth down to keep them out of the end zone made the statement that they weren’t going to get anything from us and the game turned early because of it,” added Kevin Johnston.

“Our guys were keyed for the game, they knew it would be a challenge and were excited about playing,” concluded Coach Cook. “I told our defense to keep fighting after those first couple of drives. Waylon (Young) settled in and made some good throws and that gave us good balance. We were able to pop some big runs and those kinds of touchdowns are big, when you don’t have to drive down and knock it in. When you can put points on the board from 20 or 30 yards out, it makes a big difference.”

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