THE POST-SIGNAL / Jason Faul
Notre Dame’s Barrett Harrington makes a leaping grab over defenders last week during the Pios’ 42-31 Homecoming victory over Teurlings in Lafayette.
Notre Dame hosts Kaplan for Homecoming
If there are two teams that need no introduction it is Notre Dame and Kaplan.
The teams have met 29 times since 1975 and even more so, Pirates head coach Stephen Lotief spent time as an assistant under Pios coach Lewis Cook. And you’ve surely heard the stories about Lotief and Pios defensive coordinator James McCleary being next door neighbors who often eat dinner at each other’s homes.
“There is a little more of a personal element to this game because we have coached together, played against each other and have had ties to each other for several years,” explained Pios head coach Lewis Cook. “When we kick it off Friday night it is just our next game. We prepare like we have for every other opponent and focus on our plan.”
Except Kaplan is not quite like any other opponent. The Wing Slot offensive attack is like a page out of the history books with a little twist.
“They line up foot to foot, the second back lines up on the outside and the action happens from tackle to tackle,” adds Cook. “Their perfect game is to not have to throw a pass. They are happy with four yards on every run, working the clock to shorten the game, banking on keeping the ball out of your hands and of course finishing possessions with a score.”
Against Vermilion Catholic last week, Kaplan showcased that wing slot offense on a 22-play drive covering 78 yards and lasting 10 minutes. It is that close quarters ball handling that makes their offense even harder to defend. The ball fakes and counter action can often get lost in the shuffle.
“From their standpoint, Coach Lotief and his staff may be a little more aware of what our tendencies are in certain situations,” continued Cook. “They may have a little more insight of how we react to situations, but the game still boils down to execution and taking advantage of your strengths.”
That was without question the difference in a hard-fought win over Teurlings last week. The Pios rushed for 427 yards behind the 304-yard effort of C.J. Thibodeaux who had scoring runs of 82 and 51 yards. The Pios big play night also saw a 49-yard swing pass score from Ben Broussard and Barrett Harrington haul in a 59-yard scoring pass from Parker Seilhan.
“You don’t go into a game expecting to have those big plays and long gains, but if you do the things you have practiced the results show up,” Cook reflected. “Teurlings was playing so many guys inside the tackle box that we had a chance to have more leverage on the outside. That in turn developed into opportunities on the inside that opened that last scoring run.”
If we have learned everything over the first four weeks, it is that football is a game of adjustments. Those who recognize and make those adjustments come out on the right side of the scoreboard.
The offensive similarities were obvious Friday night, but the Rebels defense was smaller and quicker up front. That didn’t seem to have any effect on Pios tailback C.J. Thibodeaux who took his first carry 82 yards for a score,
“That was the best Teurlings team I’ve seen in my time at Notre Dame,” Thibodeaux noted after the game. “My offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the night I was able to have. Whether it was four yards and a cloud of dust or the big plays, those guys were making it happen.”
The only time Thibodeaux was slowed down was when he ran out of field. On 35 carries for the night, the Rebels were playing catchup!
“I’ve been caught from behind a few times, but I was doing all I could to not let that happen in the Teurlings game. I worked hard over the summer to try and increase my speed and I feel like I am a little faster this season.”
Senior Ben Broussard continues to work his way back form the hand injury. With 13 runs and 5 receptions including a swing pass that went for a 49-yard TD, Coach Lewis Cook feels his QB is getting close to a full return.
“Ben was still is not a hundred percent last week. By this week, we expect he will be able to roll back into the lineup at quarterback. We will still use Parker back there because he gives us a lot of different options for the offense. Ben is an explosive player and we don’t want to lose that.”
The Pirates have had a rough two weeks. After opening with wins over Franklin (32-12) and North Vermilion (32-7), Kaplan has lost back to back against Church Point (6-20) and Vermilion Catholic (20-25).
Coach Stephen Lotief begins his 10th season at Kaplan and is still trying to break his team’s semifinal jinx. He is trying to do that this season minus 16 graduated seniors that helped the Pirates to three straight semi appearances and won 42 games in four seasons.
Senior QB Romin Bradley (6-0, 190) returns to lead the Pirates wing slot attack. Bradley is also a standout in the secondary and may give way on some possessions to junior Mason Frick who played in reserve last season and starts as a safety on defense.
Junior Hayes Abshire (5-7, 150) has stepped into a lead role in the running attack along with senior Kevin White (5-10, 175) who carried 18 times for 108 yards and two scores in the loss to VC. Senior Nathan Sistrunk (5-8, 185) gained 85 yards on 13 touches last week and junior Ethan Wevgand (5-8, 175) also gets a share of the load from wingback. Sophomore Orlando Roy (5-10, 185) splits time at the wing and at linebacker on defense.
The Pirates have three senior starters back on the offensive line led by All-District performers Gabriel Campbell (5-10, 245) and Willis Gaspard (5-9, 255). Junior Brennan Kass (5-10, 280) adds size to the front line.
Senior Gabriel Broussard (6-4, 300) was a part time starter last year and anchors the defensive front at nose guard. Senior Austin Hebert (5-11, 230) returns after all-league honors in the defensive line,
The Pirates depend on a lot of two-way performers on defense. Wingback Sistrunk also stands out in the secondary at safety with junior Mason Frick (5-8, 180) at cornerback and he will likely draw the opponent’s top receiver in coverage.
Junior linebacker Rhen Renfroe (6-0, 105) also doubles as a receiver. He teams with sophomore Orlando Roy (5-10, 185), Abshire and Wevgand to make up the linebacker crew of the Kaplan 3-4 defense.