Defense paves way in Pios' shutout of Thomas Jefferson

CROWLEY – The Notre Dame defense played a game of “keep away” Thursday night in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs. Only thing is, their teammates on offense were the target.
The third ranked Pios scored on four interception returns and a fumble recovery in coasting to a 62-0 win over New Orleans area opponent Thomas Jefferson.
“I’ve gone through entire seasons when we didn’t get five touchdowns on defense,” noted Pios coach Lewis Cook. “That was pretty impressive on our part and a couple of them weren’t bad throws, we just went and got them.”
The Notre Dame offense hasn’t played past halftime since week five and they again didn’t make it that far against the Jaguars. Even with only thirteen first half offensive plays, Coach Cook decided against giving the starting unit one more series to start the third quarter.
“If we hadn’t gotten all those defensive touchdowns we would have balanced up a little more. In the second half, we went to a couple of plays that came out of there for some nice gains. We were going to get to those plays earlier in the game with the starters, but we just didn’t get enough plays to get around to them.”
Credit the Jags with throwing a detour into the party by trashing their I formation offense for a spread passing attack that produced a couple of eight yard quick screen passes from quarterback Tyler Lavergne. The Pios defense put an end to that first series when Jacob Mooney, Conner Kirsch and Hunter Stelly converged on the Jags QB for a third down sack.
On defense, Thomas Jefferson stacked the front with seven defenders and the Pios countered with a Brad Stoma pass down the left sideline for a wide open John Michael Besse that fell incomplete. Besse lost three yards on a second down run and another incompletion to Besse this time open on the right side put the Pios back on defense.
“We should have scored on the first play of the game,” added Cook. “They put the free safety up there two or three yards from the line of scrimmage, they locked us up in man to man and they just out numbered us up front. Every time we threw the ball there was someone wide open down the field.”
The Jags drove from their 31 yard line into Pios territory on an 18 yard run by QB Tyler Lavergne and two pass completions to Clyde Thomas. On fourth and three at the ND 37, the Pios defense began an incredible scenario of three touchdowns in 58 seconds.
Senior middle linebacker Hunter Stelly stepped in front of a quick slant on a full run and returned the interception 68 yards for a touchdown. Two plays later, outside linebacker Kade Smith did the same on a curl route and returned that interception 24 yards for a score. Another two plays found Smith crashing in for a sack and forcing a fumble at the Jags five. The loose ball rolled into the end zone and Smith recovered for a touchdown. Dustin Reiners added his third point after for a 21-0 lead with 3:47 to play n the first quarter.
The Notre Dame offense got into gear after another defensive stop and a punt to midfield. John Michael Besse gained twelve yards on first down. From the Jags 27, receiver Kevin Frank came in motion from the left side and at the snap ran fifteen yards up the middle of the field and cut left back to the sideline. Brad Stoma fired a perfect strike and Frank stepped around a defender and completed the scoring pass for a 28-0 lead with five seconds left in the quarter.
The Pios defense, which allowed just 108 yards on 55 plays, set the offense up for another score when Caleb Lambousy, Mathew Hanks and Lane Latiolais surrounded Jags receiver Clyde Thomas for a seven yard loss on third down. A rushed punt gave the PIos offense a short field at the Thomas Jefferson 29.
Lance Bertrand gained nine on first down and Shea Zaunbrecher powered for ten and a first down at the Jags ten yard line. Bertrand picked up six and on second and goal from the four, Stoma faked another run and tight end Conner Benoit slipped into the end zone to catch a four yard touchdown pass across the back line for a 35-0 lead after the Reiners PAT.
While there are no official records as such, the next minute and a half of the second quarter must surely have put this Pios defense in an elite class. On the next play, ND linebacker Caleb Lambousy intercepted at the Jags 25 and turned it up the sideline for a touchdown to make it 42-0.
Two plays into the next Jaguar series, QB Lavergne went deep down the right side and free safety Gavin Bourgeois drifted over and leaped in front of the pass for the fourth Pios interception of the half. Bourgeois toed the sideline and picked up blockers for a 55 yard return to the end zone. Reiners boomed another extra point to make it 49-0 at the half.
“We would have liked to play the first unit longer,” added Cook. “With the lead and what they were doing on defense, we weren’t going to do the things we needed to get them out of there quickly. I was kind of banging my head against the wall a bit just wanting to see how we would do, but it would have been risky to take a chance on someone going down.”
Not to worry, Hayden Bourgeois returned the second half kick for a touchdown that was nullified by a block in the back. Bourgeois was credited with a 68 yard return and Joe Faulk ran nine yards for a TD a minute into the third quarter to extend the lead to 55-0.
Pios Paul Guidry and Jack Veillon stopped a fourth down try at the Jags 43 and the Pios grounded out another score. James Kratzer had an eleven yard burst up the middle to start the series and Ivy Paul Robichaux banged it in from six yards out. Jarrett Doucet kicked the PAT for a 62-0 final score.
Notre Dame will host Parkview Baptist in the quarterfinals Friday. It will be a rematch of the 3A state championship game won by the Eagles in convincing fashion last December.
“After what they did to us last year, it is kind of retribution for us to see if we can do something about it,” admitted Cook. “It gives us an opportunity to say hey, you kind of rubbed it on us a little bit last year. It gives us a chance to see if we can get some payback.”

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