This is the game between two high schools less than five miles apart in the same city where the sideshows usually overshadow the play on the field. Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook expects emotions will be just as high when his Pios tee it up against Crowley Thursday night.
“We expect to get their best on the field, no matter what has happened up to now and no matter what might be going on around the game. I told our kids earlier this week that we are going to see the team that scored 55 against South Beauregard and held Iowa to 14 points.”
Notre Dame stands alone atop District 4-3A at 3-0, 6-1 overall, with two games to play in the regular season. Over the past three weeks, the Pios have handed Iowa (7-1) and Westlake (5-2) their only league losses and Jennings (5-3) one of its two losses in district.
Destiny is in the hands of Cook and his team!
“When they put this district together, we knew it would be a tough league because of the history and tradition of the teams. Top to bottom, this is probably the best group of teams we have seen in one district in quite some time.”
All the game films in the world won’t bail you out when a team features new wrinkles. Westlake took the Notre Dame defense to task in the first half with crack back blocking on the edges, tall receivers to defend flanked out on either side and quarterback audibles at the line.
That’s what halftime is for! A fifteen minute window where the defensive staff led by Pios coordinator James McCleary attempts to right the ship. Right now, there may not be a staff anywhere doing it any better.
“Their quarterback was checking off on us, seeing how we lined up and changing things at the line,” coach Mac explained. “The good thing about it is our kids recognized it and we made adjustments at halftime. Then it just became a chess match. We kept changing our coverages and altering things to try and give them a hard time in reading it. They would counter and we would counter back. Our kids did a great job of picking up what they were doing.”
Pios linebackers are on a “tackle frenzy” this season. Hunter Stelly (62), Kip Credeur (52) and Matt Venable (43) top the defensive charts for total tackles. Just another day at the office last week, Stelly nailed 14 stops with two big tackles in the goal line stand and Credeur had 9 tackles, one for a loss, six of them solo stops, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Venable with five stops and a mark in just about every defensive category.
Run up the middle? Forget it! Defensive tackles Sammy Graf and Chad Gibson have staked claim between the tackles. Each had four tackles against Westlake, Graf with a head on stop of the QB on the goal line stand and Gibson with two tackles for lost yardage. Don’t go there!
The Pios have rushed for over 15-hundred yards in seven games. Luke Broussard has 890 yards with 10 TDs and six straight games over a hundred yards on the ground. Injured fullback Austin Thibodeaux has averaged near 7 yards a carry with 361 yards and 7 TDs and John Michael Besse has filled in with 232 yards while Thibodeaux rehabs.
Don’t expect to see Thibodeaux, offensive lineman Reese Besse or any of the other knicked up Pios before week ten. The goal at this point is full strength for the playoffs!
GAME BALL AWARDS
Big Play of the Game – Clint Faul Interception – With Westlake driving for a potential score that would have cut the Pios lead to 21-14, Faul ran stride for stride with 6’5” receiver Jacory Washington down the Westlake sideline and intercepted at the Notre Dame ten yard line with six seconds left in the third quarter. The Pios then marched 90 yards in 15 plays, taking over six minutes off the game clock and scoring with 5:24 to play for a 28-7 lead. Icing on the cake!
Hunter Stelly – Led the defensive effort with 14 tackles, tops by an individual this season. On first and goal from the one, Stelly stood up Rams QB Tim Hamilton for no gain. On third and goal from the one, Stelly dropped RB Latrelle Martin for a two yard loss. The junior has settled into the role of the prototypical Pios middle linebacker, playing disciplined defense with toughness and athleticism and without those pesky and costly penalties!
John Michael Besse – Sparked the Pios surge with 87 yards on 16 carries after halftime. On the third quarter scoring drive, dragged a tackler for an 11-yard first down run and gained ten for a first and goal at the Rams six. On the six minute 4th quarter drive, took a third and ten draw play up the middle dodging defenders for a 15-yard gain. And he’s just a sophomore!
Christian Landry – Passes filled the airways with Westlake throwing 31 times against the Pios secondary. For the second time this season, Landry stepped up with big plays, breaking up four crucial passes against the taller Rams receivers. The numbers don’t always tell the whole story!
Clint Reiners – Logged six tackles from defensive end spot to help clamp down Westlake perimeter running in the second half. Reiners has been a consistent performer all season on the D-Front, forcing the ball inside to other tacklers and still posting a sack, three QB hits, a tackle for loss and 23 stops on the season.
When Crowley and Notre Dame teed it up last year, both teams were rebounding from early season struggles. The game played out like many of the rivalry matchups in the past.
Notre Dame took a 14-0 halftime lead and relied on a ball control running game to churn up 276 rushing yards and convert 7-of-16 third down plays in using up over 31 of the 48 game minutes. The Pios defense had a couple of interceptions and held the Gents to 1-of-10 on third down to preserve a 21-6 win.
First year head coach Josh Fontenot got his first league win two weeks ago at South Beauregard (55-12) after dropping a close opener to Iowa (14-6). Crowley lost to Jennings, 39-14, last week.
The Gents geared up their offense in the win over the Knights, rushing for 231 yards with tailback Danny Malbrough (5-10, 165) netting 120 yards on 15 carries including a 52 yard TD run. Malbrough rushed for 84 yards against Jennings and caught three passes for 51 yards.
Chris Lewis came in to score fourth quarter TDs on runs of 7 and 34 yards at South Beau and finish with 58 yards on 9 carries in relief. Lewis gained 82 yards and scored on a 9-yard run against Jennings.
“They operate from the spread and have a lot of talent at the skill positions, so once again we have to slow down the run to be successful,” notes Pios coach Lewis Cook. “The quarterback has a year under his belt as the starter and he is the key for them. He can run the ball and has improved his game as a passer.”
Senior QB Andre Mills (5-11, 210) ran for 43 yards and a score and threw for 95 yards and three touchdowns in the win over South Beauregard. With 196 passing yards against Jennings, Mills now has 798 yards and 8 touchdowns through the air this year and he has run for nearly 600 yards and three scores.
Chanz Moore had three catches for 57 yards and three touchdowns in the South Beau game from the slot back position. Moore caught seven passes for a hundred yards and a touchdown last week and now has 35 receptions for 481 yards and 8 TDs on the year.
The Gents defense ditched the 4-2-5 scheme of last season for a 3-4 that is similar to what the Pios saw from Iowa. Linebacker Jessie Harmon (6-1, 215) logged 93 tackles last season and anchors a senior heavy defense that returns six starters. Three of those are in the secondary including Damon Malbrough (5-11, 170), free safety Alex LeBoeuf (5-10, 160) and strong safety Tyler Credeur (5-11, 160). Junior Andrew LeJeune (6-1, 210) saw time at linebacker with Harmon last year.