Notre Dame defense smothers Panthers
They came into the game having averaged 50 points scored in three wins, averaging over 500 yards on offense and heralded as one of the high powered offensive teams in Acadiana. They left the game still looking for answers to a Notre Dame defense that allowed Catholic High just 123 yards of offense and no points.
Notre Dame pounded out a 37-nothing win to go 3-0 on the season. It’s hard to imagine a more surprising two week stretch for Pios coach Lewis Cook.
“I was a little worried about a bit of a hangover after last week. We were so excited that nobody wanted to leave the stadium. No one expected that and it was really uplifting for our team. The first couple of days of practice last week were a little sluggish, then all of a sudden Wednesday we got it cranked up and Thursday you could see the focus coming in. Obviously, we were ready to go and they did a great job.”
In three previous games, Catholic High had 21 plays of 20+ yards and 9 plays of 40+ yards, averaged 28 yards per pass completion and 8 yards per run with over 11-hundred yards gained rushing. Against the Pios, Catholic had a 29-yard run by tailback Jaden Stokes and a 14-yard run by QB Diallo Landry, only six first downs, punted eight times and only got past midfield twice, but no closer than the Pios 37. That’s it!
“Our defense was flying around out there,” added Cook. “I’m watching a guy running around for three or four seconds, I look up and he got two yards. Our guys were getting to the ball really quick and they were never able to break a big play.”
Catholic punter Peter Leblanc boomed a 75-yard punt from the Panthers five to the Pios twenty. Notre Dame then marched 76-yards to get on the scoreboard. QB Garrett Bergeron converted third and fifteen with a 17-yard pass to Gentry Borill on a deep crossing route. On the next snap, Borill laid out for a 35-yard diving catch down the sideline. Notre Dame scored on a 22-yard field goal by John William Lamm. That was just the beginning of the frustration for Catholic High.
Alex Brouillette and Zeke Petitjean combined to sack QB Landry at the CHNI seven and Leblanc punted out of bounds at the Panthers 37. Pios QB Garrett Bergeron completed passes of 9 and 13 yards to Landon Meche. Collin Kirsh ran for eight yards to the five and two plays later scored to make it 10-nothing after a Lamm PAT.
On the next Panthers possession, Stokes got his 29-yard run on first down and the Pios defense then forced a punt. Landry’s kick to the Pios five was returned 68 yards by Cameron Nelson to the CHNI 27.
“I was already a little winded from the drive before the punt,” Nelson said with a grin. “The return is a preset call and this one was to the left sideline. The blockers did all the work and I just ran through their blocks. I cut back on that last defender and he kind of fell into me.”
Aided by two pass interference calls on two wide open receivers, ND scored on a two-yard sneak by QB Bergeron. Lamm’s extra point made the halftime score 17-nothing Pios.
“We had the opportunity to make a few plays offensively,” added Cook. “We had some things set up, but they are a good football team and their defense was making it tough on us. We were getting the ball to start the second half and it would be big to do something with it. We had to keep the hammer down, drive the nail a little bit and then finish it because they weren’t going to quit.”
Noah Bourgeois returned the second half kick 65 yards to the Catholic 27, but ND fumbled away the opportunity three plays later. Catholic gave it back at the Panthers 39 when Thomas Stevens stripped Landry after a ten-yard run and Jacob Dore recovered at the CHNI 39.
Noah Bourgeois ran 28 yards and Waylon Bourgeois took it in from four yards. Lamm added the extra point for a 24-nothing Pios lead.
The teams exchanged possessions until Waylon Bourgeois took a handoff wide right on a fourth and one at the Catholic 30 to start the fourth quarter. The PAT pushed the lead to 31-nothing.
The Pios rushed for 240 yards on the night with ten different ball carriers splitting 46 runs for a 5.2-yard average. Noah Bourgeois picked up 63 yards on twelve carries and Collin Kirsch gained 56 yards on thirteen runs, but the going was tough early in the game.
“They loaded up and they took some chances,” noted Cook. “We felt there were certain things we could maybe get them on enough to sustain drives. Garrett made some big throws Gentry made some big catches We are going to be patient and try to wear them down. We feel like we have some depth and we are going to play some guys in the backfield.”
Enter Pios running back C.J. Thibodeaux. The sophomore back carried six times in a 23-yard scoring drive after the Pios defense forced a fumble on a sack that was recovered by John Hoffpauir. Thibodeaux bounced outside for a 20-yard run and three plays later powered in from six yards running over and dragging tacklers to the end zone for the final score of the night.
“You put fresh legs into the game in the middle of the third quarter and it makes a difference,” said Cook. “C.J. is already pretty fast and a hard guy to get to the ground. With the defense tired, he’s even faster and tougher.”
The Notre Dame defense finished off the Panthers logging 5 sacks, 8 QB hurries, five tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries. Preseason All-Acadiana QB Diallo Landry picked on cornerback Konnor Broussard all night without success. Broussard had four tackles and held leading receiver Peter Leblanc to ten receiving yards.
If ever there was a team effort, this Pios win was just that, especially on defense.
“There’s no one person that really sticks out,” summed up senior Cam Nelson. “Everyone just does their job and that’s what makes the whole defense work. If there is a key, it is Coach Mac during the week. He knows exactly what we need to do and he schemes every team so well that by the time we go on the field we are pretty much prepared for anything.”
Notre Dame faces Kaplan next week in a Thursday night game.
“We’ll be up against another quality opponent,” conclude coach Cook. “Kaplan is tough, they are scrappy and they will come after us. Coach Lotief knows us, he was on our staff and his teams fight you to the end. We try to get the kids to understand every week, this is why we play quality opponents as we try to learn and move along. There’s no time to catch your breath, but when you get in the playoffs, it’s the same thing.”