Pios travel to North DeSoto for second round
By Tom Brown
CROWLEY – Traveling in the regional round would normally be an uncommon scenario for teams seeded in the upper half of the playoff bracket. Not this year with over half the games this week involving an upset winner and somewhat unexpected road trips.
Notre Dame will head up I-49 near Shreveport on Friday for its second round game at North DeSoto High School. The top ranked Pios have been farther down the interstate before and coach Louis Cook is not overly concerned about making the trip.
“There’s no way to tell how it will work out later other than a win gives us a home game next week. We made the long ride to Richwood last year the day after Thanksgiving and were able to hold on. A few years back we went to Winnfield and we may have to travel again if we are still playing in December. So, we’ve made these type trips with past teams, they’ve handled it well and I expect this team will do the same.”
There were 26 lower seed winners in the opening round including 3A teams Bogalusa (#29), St. James ( #26), Catholic-New Iberia (#20), Richwood (#19), and North DeSoto (#17). Bogalusa pulled off the biggest surprise in all classes with a 48-42 shootout win at #4 seed Carroll in Monroe.
North DeSoto was in the area last week for a 20-15 win over North Vermilion. The Griffins won the right to host top seeded and unbeaten Notre Dame and North DeSoto coach Scott Abernathy had a long ride home to think about it.
“To advance in the state playoffs you have to play good teams,” said Abernathy. “We thought with the power rankings we had done enough to get a first round home game, but if you have to play the top ranked team it’s certainly a better situation to have them in your backyard.”
In his second year as head coach, Abernathy has led North Desoto to consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in school history. The Griffins won the final three games of the regular season to finish 6-4 overall and posted a 48-14 win over Loyola of Shreveport in week ten to earn a second consecutive District 1-3A championship with a 4-0 league mark.
Against Loyola in the district title game, quarterback Curtis Carter threw touchdown passes on his first three completions and finished with 129 yards. Carter, who has committed to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, also had a 22-yard touchdown run.
“He’ll be a wideout or a slot receiver at Nebraska,” continues Abernathy. “Curtis doesn’t have great numbers when you look at the stat sheet but he has done a good job for us at quarterback in big situations. We had him at wideout early and wanted to put the ball in his hands. We’ve had about 15 different guys running the ball and the last three or four weeks LaMichael Smith has really come on with some big games.”
Smith lines up at fullback in the Griffins Wing T attack and ran for 164 yards on 12 carries in the Loyola game. North DeSoto rushed for 229 first half yards on the way to a game total of 326 on the ground and Smith scored three TDs with runs of 70, 32 and 3 yards.
“Carter is a tremendous athlete with a lot of speed,” added Pios coach Louis Cook. “I’m sure Nebraska wanted him for his athleticism and because he runs as well as anything else he does and that is a concern for us. They run a lot of traps and leads and it starts with Smith working between the tackles. He gets a lot of carries and we’ll need to slow him down a bit and make them go to something else.”
Last week at North Vermilion, the Griffins led 14-7 in the closing minutes when a turnover inside their ten set up the Patriots for a late score and 2-point conversion.
The ensuing kickoff was returned for a touchdown by Jacobi Winn, who starts at safety on defense, gets his share of carries at tailback and is a special teams leader for the Griffins. A penalty brought that return back near midfield in North Vermilion territory and set up a wild finish. Two plays later, Carter connected for a touchdown pass when the defender slipped down in coverage and the Griffins had the win.
It was the second TD pass of the game for Carter who finished with 91 yards in the air. He also had a TD run and 84 yards rushing.
Notre Dame has already prepared this season for teams that set in the Wing T, feature a hard running fullback, an elusive running quarterback with good throwing ability and front lines with good size and speed. Think Kaplan, Abbeville, Eunice and Breaux Bridge. Throw them all in a shaker and pour out North DeSoto.
“The games we’ve played well have been the ones we haven’t put the ball on the ground,” added Griffin coach Abernathy. “Our defense has given up 150 points this year but they have really played well and a lot of those points are because we put them on a short field with our special teams or a turnover and left them backed up.”
Notre Dame did not expend a lot of energy last week, scoring on its first six possessions and sending the starters to the sideline before the nine minute mark of the second quarter. A few weeks ago, the Pios were concerned about getting the front liners more work on the field. At this stage Coach Lewis Cook sees it as a plus.
“I think it actually works to our advantage right now,” continued Cook. “The starters got a lot of work against North Vermilion and had an intense game against Kaplan the next week. After the first couple of series last week we didn’t see them being on the field deep into the game and they’ll go into this week a little more rested and fresher.”
The Pios had over 200 of their 301 total yards by the ten minute mark of the second quarter. Notre Dame scored five touchdowns on the ground with three coming through gaping holes from beyond ten yards out.
“We have some size across our defensive front and they have a good offensive line so I think that matchup will be a key for us in the game,” concluded Abernathy. “We know we have a tough task ahead of us. With the kids they have on the defensive side of the ball, we’ll have to have a big week. Those two kids, Welter and Molbert, everything we’ve seen on them, I don’t think they have been blocked this season.”