The Pios scored two first quarter touchdowns and were never threatened, taking a 28-7 win over the rival Gents. Improving to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in league play, Notre Dame has wrapped up another District 4-3A championship.
“We got those two quick touchdowns in the first quarter, three in the first half, and that kind of set us up for the rest of the game,” said ND coach Lewis Cook. “I was just glad we got out early and our defense tightened up to keep them off the field.”
The Pios where headed for an early score when quarterback Brad Stoma hit Luke Broussard with a swing pass and he turned it up the sideline for a 37 yard gain. Broussard picked up 17 on a sweep to the right side and two plays later the Pios were third and 10 from the Gents 12.
Stoma hit Brandon Leger with a nice out cut at the three-yard line. Catching the pass eye level, Leger was tucking the ball away when Crowley’s Damon Malbrough yanked it away with a top notch defensive play to halt the drive.
“They have had four or five games this year where they take an opening drive in for a score, so I was anxious to see how that was going to unfold and they didn’t get it down there,” added Cook. “We wanted to get off to a fast start, had a couple of nice runs for first downs and then had that nice first drive end kind of weird inside the five.”
It didn’t take long for the Pios to get back on track, scoring on their next possession. Clint Reiners sacked Crowley quarterback Andre Mills on third down to force a punt.
Notre Dame took over at the Crowley 45 and marched in on eight plays for a 7-0 lead. Brad Stoma kept the drive alive with a 10-yard scramble out of the pocket on third down. A personal foul and a face mask penalty around John Michael Besse runs of eight and six yards set up a first down at the Crowley 13 yard line.
Besse bolted for 11 yards on first down and two plays later, took it in standing up from the one. Dustin Reiners kicked the extra point with 2:24 to go in the first quarter.
Crowley could only gain three yards on the next possession and the Pios got it back on a punt to the ND 25. It took just a minute and a half for ND to cover the 75 yards.
Broussard kept the ball rolling on a seventh straight 100-yard rushing game with four straight carries, the last a 15 yard scamper to set the Pios up at the Gents 42. From there Stoma play faked and pulled up to find Nicholas Benoit down the middle of the field for a 42-yard touchdown catch with 13 seconds to go in the quarter. Reiners added the PAT for a 14-0 lead.
Crowley mounted its first threat of the evening when Danny Malbrough found running room for a 17 yard gain. Mills then completed a pass to Thomas Cavell for a short gain to the Crowley 44.
From there, Chris Lewis took it around the right side of the Pios defense for an 11 yard gain where he was hit hard by Kipp Credeur and fumbled. Gavin Bourgeois recovered at the Notre Dame 37.
“Those two backs (Malbrough and Lewis) are as good as anyone in our league,” noted Cook. “They spread you out and those guys can do some damage when they get in open space. That turnover was a big play for us to keep them in check.”
The Pios weren’t able to convert the turnover into points, but did get the chance to work on a few new wrinkles like a 15 yard swing pass from Stoma to fullback Ross Cullen out of the backfield. The Gents defense stiffened with a sack of Stoma to force a fumble recovered by Pio Conner Benoit. Two plays later, linebacker Jesse Harmon sacked Stoma again to force a punt.
Crowley converted just one of six third downs in the first half and it didn’t come on the next drive. The Pios got it back in four plays when Chad Gibson sacked Mills and the ensuing punt got the Pios back to work from the ND 23.
Broussard gained nine up the middle on first down. After an incomplete pass, Stoma made a quick delivery to Nicholas Benoit on a slant from the right side for six yards and a first down.
From the Pios 41, Stoma looked for wide receiver Brandon Leger on a fade down the left sideline. The pass drifted out and Leger adjusted to make a highlight reel catch looking backwards over his head for a first down at the Crowley 21.
On the next play, Besse blasted through for a 43 yard touchdown run. Reiners converted the extra point for a 21-0 lead with two minutes to go in the half.
“Brad (Stoma) made some good decisions, some nice throws and the catch by Brandon was something,” grinned Cook. “We were able to run a couple of new things. We have to see if it is there, see what we can handle and we’re doing more and more every time out.”
The Pios kept it pretty basic the rest of the way. Broussard pounded away to reach 126 yards on 22 carries. Besse gained 96 yards on 14 carries in spot relief. All total, eight ball carriers would contribute to 275 rushing yards and an average gain of five per play.
On the Pios second possession of the third quarter, Besse got the call six times and gained 49 yards in the 8-play, 78-yard drive. Stoma had an eight yard third down completion to tight end Luke Habetz that kept the march on course.
On first down at the Crowley 31, receiver Marcus Garrett streaked the right sideline with good coverage. Stoma threw it up on Garrett’s back shoulder at the three, he pulled up and leaped over the defender to make the catch and dive in for the touchdown. Reiners nailed his fourth PAT for a 28-0 ND advantage.
Tackles for loss by Nate Link, Matt Venable, Kipp Creduer and Hunter Stelly kept the Gents in check with only 22 yards on two third quarter possessions. The Pios offense took six and a half minutes off the clock on a 15-play drive that started at the Pios 30 and ended at the Gents one when Crowley stopped four runs up the middle.
Danny Malbrough turned the corner for 49 yards to mid field against the future Pios. Freshman quarterback Jacquo Price came in to spark the Gents 99-yard drive with an 11 yard completion to Chanz Moore.
Malbrough picked up 14 and on second and goal from the Pios 11 and Price connected with Moore again to put the Gents on the scoreboard. Mackay Mouton booted the extra point with 3:41 to play and Notre Dame closed out the 28-7 win.
“We went out Friday and let our guys break a sweat,” concluded Coach Cook. “It was a little easier routine than usual and the extra day between games comes at a good time for us to help heal some guys and get a little break.”
Notre Dame closes out the regular season at South Beauregard Friday night. Currently ranked third in the polls and first in the LHSAA power rankings of last Thursday, the Pios are locked into the playoffs and al that is left is where.