Notre Dame claims 6-3A crown with victory over Kaplan
KAPLAN – Notre Dame capped another unbeaten regular season Friday night in Kaplan, winning the District 6-3A championship with a 47-6 win over the Pirates. In much the same manner as three seasons ago when the teams last met, the Pios scored quickly and often leaving little doubt of the eventual outcome.
“We converted some big third downs early in the game and that to me was the difference,” said Pios coach Lewis Cook. “If we get stopped early in the game, it is probably going to extend things a bit, so, making those plays and putting up one score after another was big.”
John Michael Besse scored three first quarter touchdowns and ran for 179 yards on just 15 carries in leading Notre Dame to 473 yards of total offense. The Pios defense was again suffocating, holding the Pirates to 17 yards and one first down in the first half.
“We’ve been really playing well on defense and getting better each week,” added Cook. “We’ll need a stout defense in the coming weeks and if we can keep playing like we have we’ll have a chance to keep going in the right direction.”
That defense forced a fumble on the game’s first play, recovering at the Kaplan 29 yard line. The offense then stumbled out with three incomplete passes.
“The first play we fake a reverse and the receiver gets bumped off the route from the beginning,” explained Cook. “We throw the trail out route and it’s a little short and knocked away and we overthrow another open receiver. Right out the chute we’re looking at a three and out and it could have been a different story.”
On fourth down, Brad Stoma connected with Besse for a first down at the Pirates 16. Four plays later, Besse ran it in from the two and the Pios led 7-0.
It was Kaplan that went three and out on its next two possessions and the Pios pieced together two more scoring drives. Stoma scrambled for 18 yards and Besse took it outside for a 17 yard run on the first exchange. Stoma then hit tight end Conner Benoit for 12 yards on a drag route over the middle and Besse got his second TD from six yards out.
Notre Dame mounted a 75-yard drive to close out the first quarter after the second stop with just under four minutes to play. The Pios converted a third down when John Michael Besse took a screen pass 14 yards.
“We were expecting pressure in that situation and we got it,” noted Cook. “Brad did a good job of timing the screen, baiting them and drawing them in and holding them just long enough. It’s not every time we make the right call at the right time but it was then.”
The Pios converted 8 of 12 third downs in the game and on third and 15 from the ND 39, Stoma gained 22 on a quarterback draw.
“We haven’t run that play this year, but with what they were doing in coverage we felt it was the right time,” Cook said. “They were going to nickel coverage and dropping a lot of guys. We were able to pop the play for a big first down.”
Stoma then dumped another screen to Besse and he took it 26 yards to the Kaplan 13. From there, Besse got his third score on the last play of the quarter and Dustin Reiners added a third PAT for a 21-0 lead.
“J-Mike made a couple of really nice plays, spinning out of tackles to keep drives alive,” Cook continued. “There is no doubt having him in there makes a difference in our offense.”
Notre Dame benefited from a short Kaplan punt to start the second quarter and quickly turned the opportunity into more points. James Kratzer had runs of 10, 14 and 8 yards to the Kaplan 22. Brad Stoma completed the 7 play drive with a 19 yard TD pass to Kyle Habetz for a 27-0 Pos lead. Stoma completed five passes for 90 yards and ran for 40 yards in the game.
Kaplan continued to attack the inside of the Pios defense with little success on just 19 offensive snaps in the first half. Linebacker Hunter Stelly paced the Pios defense with 10 tackles and forced Kaplan to the airways afer a third down stop. Safety Christian Landry then intercepted a pass and returned it 22 yards to the Pirates 34. Jeff Daigle powered in from a yard away for a 34-0 Pios lead at the half.
Coach Cook gave the offensive starters one more series to start the second half. Six plays and 63 yards later, their work was done for the night.
On a third and 14 play, Brad Stoma found Kevin Frank for a 20 yard completion into Kaplan territory. Besse turned the corner for a 29 yard run to the 18. Fullback Shea Zaunbrecher gained 13 yards on first down and on the next play scored from the five.
Notre Dame led 41-0 when penalties assisted Kaplan on a 10-play possession. Pirates QB Devonte Davis went deep down the middle to a receiver blanketed by cornerback Rankin Bihm and safety Gavin Bourgeois. Bihm defleced the ball up into the air and Bourgeois hauled in the second Pios interception of the game.
Kaplan avoided the shutout on the second play of the fourth quarter when QB Davis scrambled left, reversed his field back around the right side and outran defenders on a 48 yard touchdown to make it Pios 41-6.
The Pios went into clock running mode with pounding inside runs from Ivy Paul Robichaux, Hunter Miller and Damon Comeaux. Keeping the ball for 11plays and over six minutes, Comeaux ran straight up the heart of the Kaplan defense for a 9 yard touchdown to make the final score 47-6.
“In a way it was kind of good how it panned out that we didn’t have to fight until the end,” summed up Cook. “We will probably come up a day short in preparations this week and have to play on a Thursday. The rest should be more important to us than having to fight hard down to the last minute.”