Notre Dame held a 27-10 win advantage going into the game and had won the last eight times the teams played. On Thursday night at the new Teurlings Stadium, the Rebels jumped out to a 14-0 second quarter lead and dodged a six-shooter full of bullets to defeat the Pios 14-10.
“I thought we played them as good as we could play them, especially in the second half,” said Pios coach Lewis Cook. “When you look at everything, they made a couple of plays that we didn’t and that was the difference in the game.”
Teurlings took the opening drive 65 yards in 11 plays for a quick 7-0 lead. Quarterback Connor Cronin completed all five pass attempts for 40 of those yards and tailback Zack LaFleur ran it in from a yard out four and a half minutes into the game.
Midway through the second quarter, Cronin had the Rebels on the move again with a 35 yard pass to Phillip Vidrine down to the Pios 10. Three plays later, LaFleur got his second one yard TD run of the evening to make it 14-0 with 4:38 to go in the half.
Forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Teurlings fumbled the kick and Mathew Hanks recovered for the Pios at the Rebels 39. On first down, QB Brad Stoma lofted a pass deep into double coverage and Marcus Garrett pulled it down between defenders and kept his balance into the end zone. Dustin Reiners kicked the extra point to cut the Teurlings lead to 14-7 at the half.
“Our guys gave a great effort,” added Cook. “It was just a tough game against a pretty good team. We saw how they were lining up to our two tight end set and felt they were a little more vulnerable there, so at halftime we decided to just run it that way a little more.”
On the first play of the second half, Luke Broussard swept the left side, turned the corner and was on his way to a game tying touchdown. Teurlings defensive back Willie Smith chased and got close enough to slap the ball out from behind, force it into the end zone and recover for a touchback.
The Pios defense stiffened and a Rebels punt left Notre Dame with backs to the wall at their two. Fullback Austin Thibodeaux sliced off he left side of the line for a 43 yard gain and John Michael Besse pounded the left side on seven carries into the Rebels red zone. Notre Dame settled for a 38-yard field goal from Reiners to cap a 77-yard, six minute drive and cut the Teurlings lead to 14-10.
“We make a big play, go 75 yards and get stripped at the 10, we throw the long pass to get down there again and they make us kick a field goal,” added Cook. “Their defense was physical, put pressure on us and did a good job against us. We had a game leading touchdown pass we couldn’t connect on. We just couldn’t finish the drive at the end.”
Meanwhile, the Pios defense was getting pretty physical on its own and again took control of the game in the second half. Teurlings would gain just forty yards over the final two quarters and never really threatened to score again.
After completing 11-of-17 first half passes for 129 yards, the Rebels connected on just five of 14 the rest of the way. The running game was eliminated with minus six yards on the ground.
“We decided we needed to get a little tighter in our coverage, play a little more man to man, pick our spots and put some pressure on them,” explained Pios defensive coordinator James McCleary. “We lost a couple of guys to injuries last week and we had people in new positions trying to learn new responsibilities. I think the biggest change from the first half is that we just settled in and executed.”
A 30-yard pass from Stoma to Brandon Leger set the Pios up at the Rebels 15 at the end of the third quarter. Notre Dame came away empty, but would get the ball back for one last chance with six minutes to play.
Starting from the Pios seven, offensive linemen Parick Hundley and Nick Casanova opened a hole off the left side and fullback Ross Cullen kicked out the linebacker for Luke Broussard to burst for 27 yards. On fourth and seven at the Pios 44, Marcus Garret came over the middle and snagged a Stoma pass for 16 yards and a first down.
Two plays later after a holding penalty, Garret took a bubble screen and turned it up for 10 yards. The duo were inches from connecting for another first down on third and 17, but the threat ended when Teurlings lineman Logan Dupre sacked Stoma on fourth down with a minute to play.
The sophomore quarterback turned in another solid game, completing 7-of-16 passes for 118 yards and touchdown. Luke Broussard had runs of five and 27 yards to total 136 for the night and Austin Thibodeaux gained 73 yards averaging over nine per carry.
Marcus Garret and Brandon Leger are gaining big catch reputations. Each caught three passes, Garret for 60 yards and Leger picked up 56 yards.
Defensively, the Pios stepped up again in the second half to shut down another opponent. Caleb Lambousy had 9 tackles, one for a loss, a sack and a pass break up. Gavin Bourgeois added eight tackles and broke up three passes and Matt Venable had seven stops.
The Pios combined for nine pass breakups, four tackles for loss of yardage, a pair of sacks and logged five quarterback hits. In short, Notre Dame probably outplayed Teurlings everywhere but on the scoreboard.
“I think we grew up a lot tonight,” summed up Cook. “It was a great atmosphere, like a playoff game. I’m disappointed we lost the game, but we definitely saw some things we can build on. We get to come home for two games and that’s always nice.”