Fullback Austin Thibodeaux ran over two Breaux Bridge tacklers from three yards out with 1:47 to play for an improbable 24-21 comeback win at Gardiner Stadium Friday night.
Improbable from the standpoint that the wheels appeared to have come off when Breaux Bridge took a 21-2 lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter. But this has always been one of those anything can happen matchups and for Thibodeaux and the Pios, nothing short of amazing.
“Words can’t describe the feeling of a game winning drive like that,” said Thibodeaux. “We practice to play for four quarters. We push ourselves with sprints and conditioning every day and because of that hard work we feel the fourth quarter is ours. I was really kind of blanked out on the situation and just trying to focus on the next play and my responsibility.”
Thibodeaux carried the ball 18 times for a team leading 77 yards and two touchdowns. The Pios scored on three of their last four possessions and the senior workhorse had his number called 11 times over that stretch, including a two point conversion that doesn’t show up as a carry on the stat sheet.
“I didn’t go into the game expecting to carry the ball that many times. My job is to block and help open holes for the tailbacks. I think the game just developed where we were able to have a little more success on those plays where I get it.”
Trailing 21-16 with four minutes to play, Pios coach Lewis Cook put the game in the hands of the defense when Dustin Reiners rolled a punt to the Tigers 15 yard line. Stops by Sammy Graf, Kipp Credeur and Hunter Stelly forced Breaux Bridge to kick it back with 3:07 on the game clock.
From the Tigers 46, John Michael Besse took a reverse around the left side for 16 yards. On third and 13 from the 33, quarterback Brad Stoma went down the right sideline for a 30 yard completion to Brandon Leger to set up the winning touchdown.
“That was the same play we scored the touchdown on to Marcus Garrett,” explained Cook. “It is four verticals with three receivers on one side. Brad came up to the line and saw Brandon had one-on-one on the right side. He made a perfect throw to the outside and Brandon just made a great play on the catch. He was covered pretty well and did a nice job of putting his body between the defender and the ball and getting down inbounds.”
That set up the Thibodaux touchdown and he then powered in for the 2-point conversion and the 24-21 final score. But not before the defense had to shut down the Tigers offense one final series.
The Pios pressured Landry, who went 14-of-27 for 181 yards, into four straight incompletions. Caleb Lambousy knocked away a fourth down pass to seal the win.
“In a game like this, you have to come up with some big plays and fortunately in the last 18 minutes we had our share,” noted Cook. “You hunt, you peck and you try to find things that will give you a few plays. We found four or five things that worked.”
Breaux Bridge took the opening kickoff and appeared headed for the first score of the game marching 76 yards to the Pios four. A 43 yard completion on third and eight kept the drive alive when quarterback Lane Landry went down the middle of the field to tight end Jamal Zenon for a first down at the Pios 25.
On second and goal at the four, the Pios defense jarred the ball loose from tailback Joshua Faulk and Hogan Guidry recovered for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame got on the board after Dustin Reiners boomed a 43 yard punt to the Breaux Bridge four yard line. On first down, Tigers tailback Derrick Williams took a toss for a sweep to the right side and Kipp Credeur shot through to drop Williams in the end zone for a safety. The Pios led 2-nothing with 9:18 to play in the second quarter.
Breaux Bridge caught fire with four minutes to play in the half. QB Landry completed six of seven passes on a 10-play, 62 yard drive. The last was a six yard TD to Aaron Lastrapes for a 7-2 halftime lead.
On the second play of the third quarter, Breaux Bridge increased the lead to 14-2 when Joseph Williams returned a fumbled snap 40 yards for a TD. On the next series, Stoma was intercepted and three plays later, Demarkus Daughdrill turned the corner and ran 35 yards to put Breaux Bridge ahead 21-2.
“You always wonder how your team is going to handle that type of adversity,” said Cook. “They score at the end of the half and then get two more in the first four minutes of the second half. I can’t tell you the last time we had that happen to us. We fumble the snap and the free safety gets the ball bounce up to him on a hop and takes it the distance. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.”
Just as the wheels seemed to be coming off the bus, the Pios changed the tires and mounted a six and a half minute drive, covering 59 yards in 14 plays. Thibodeaux got his first three yard TD run of the night to cut the Tigers lead to 21-9.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, ND’s Hunter Stelly blocked a punt that was recovered at the Breaux Bridge 35 by Kipp Credeur. On fourth down from the ten, Stoma fired between two defenders and Garrett made the catch for a score at the goal line. Reiners added the extra point to make it 21-16.
“The blocked punt turned it around for us,” added Cook. “That was a big lift for the team and then we get the fourth down pass for a touchdown. Those were two huge plays and that gave us a chance. Then the kids just made plays to pull it out.”