Second half rally sparks Pioneer rout
BY LANCE REED
LSN STAFF WRITER
CROWLEY – How could any game be so completely different when separated by halves? Well it was surely the case Friday nigh in Notre Dame’s 49-21 victory over Class 4A Alexandria.
The Pios and Trojans battled it out in a wacky contest that was played in front of the NDHS homecoming court and plenty of alumni.
The Trojans were introduced to the Pioneer defense right away and suffered a three and out series. The NDHS offense came on the field and made the most of their first possession. After starting on the ASH 45-yard line, junior quarterback Ryan Leonards went to work. He hit Robert Johnson on a 25-yard gain to really get things going. On fourth and four, Jordan Bertrand helped to keep the Pios going with a very strong run. Leonards later punched the ball in from one-yard away. Stephen Benoit’s extra point capped the drive. The score was set up with a big time grab from Nick Zaunbrecher just outside the pylon.
The second quarter saw Notre Dame’s defense do some more dirty work. Senior strong safety Bryant Gilbert picked off a Walter Creed pass and hauled it for 65 yards for the second NDHS score. Benoit’s kick made it 14-0 with 10:32 left to go in the half.
With all the momentum on their side, Notre Dame’s offense got back to work. Another three and out series gave the Pios the ball on their own 43-yard line. A 28-yard run from Bertrand put the Pios in business. From the ASH 14-yard line, fullback Marshall Watson moved to the ball to the one-yard line. Senior running back Robert Sarver moved the ball into the end zone for the third ND score. Benoit’s kick made it 21-0 with a little over six minutes to go.
Once again the ND defense forced a three and out. However, things would change on the punt that would follow. On the return, the ball was stripped out of Luke Bourgeous’ hands. The fumbled turned into the first ASH score of the ball game. After the extra point, the Trojans had cut the lead to 21-7.
Moments later, the ASH defense forced a three and out series on the ND offense. The following punt turned into another break. A low snap forced ND punter Dusty Hoffpaur’s knee to touch the ground, giving the Trojans the ball on the ND 25-yard line. The Pios still managed to stand firm and nearly kept the Trojans from scoring. However, a scramble by Creed allowed a receiver to get open in the end zone. The crease was just enough to give the Trojans their second score of the night. After the extra point kick, it was now 21-14.
With less than a minute left on the clock, the Pios got the ball back and they were content with just running out the clock. Unfortunately, the Trojans were not so passive. They stripped the ball out of Sarver’s hands and advanced the ball for the third ASH touchdown of the quarter. After the extra point kick, the game was tied up at 21 points per team.
The shock of the second quarter seemed to go away quickly. The Pioneers showed heart and character by making an enormous turn around in the third period. In fact, Notre Dame completely dominated the second half of the football game. They rattled off four scores in the third period and totally took the Trojans out of the football game.
“In the first half, we put ourselves in a bad predicament,” remarked Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook. “I was anxious to see how we would respond and answer. We never had to do that before with this group. No one ever scored that fast on these guys. I was glad to see their answer.”
Leonards and company got the ball to begin the second half at their own 35-yard line. A big catch from Zaunbrecher and a face mask call allowed the local boys to move deep into Trojan territory. Later in the drive, Leonards connected with Philip LeBlanc to keep the drive moving. The four and a half minute drive was capped when Jordan Bertrand scored from three yards out. Benoit’s kick was good, giving Notre Dame the lead back.
After another three and out from ASH, Notre Dame got the ball back at their own 38-yard line. After some strong runs from Bertrand, Sarver and Jack Thomas Hundley, the Pios were in business. A personal foul call set the NDHS offense for a score. Leonards hit Morgan Allen on a 14-yard pitch and catch for six points. Benoit’s kick made it 35-21 with a little over four minutes left to go in the period.
After the score, a great kickoff defense put the Trojans at their own one-yard line. When Creed tried to throw a quick slant pass and get out of the hostile area, senior cornerback Nick Ware picked off the pass. The interception set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Stu Cook with a little over three minutes to play in the frame. Benoit’s kick made it a 42-21 ball game.
The NDHS defense forced another three and out series from ASH. Then Leonards and his squad went to work. A short punt put the Pios in business again. Within moments, the Notre Dame offense had found a way to get another six points on the board. Leonards hit Sarver for a 12-yard touchdown reception and Benoit pounded the kick. The events made it a 49-21 ball game.
The fourth frame was scoreless as both teams put in many second-string players. The Pios were overjoyed with their hard fought homecoming victory. Leonards ended the night 8-9 for 141 yards and Bertrand led the rushing attack with 11 carries for 76 yards.
Defensively, Seth Fruge led the Pios with 15 tackles, while D. J. Welter was good for 12 tackles. Hunter Stover and John Graf each had a sack on the night.
“We are starting to get where we want to be,” Cook said. “We are settling and getting consistent on both sides of the ball. We are using four receivers and six running backs. Our defense has really shown that it can shut people down. We made some little mistakes tonight, but they are correctable.”