CROWLEY – The rumble you may have heard from the sky Friday night had nothing to do with the weather. That rumble was the Notre Dame bomber squadron as it rolled through town on Operation 7 Seconds over Crowley.
It took that short a time for the Pios to take control of the District 5-3A opener against Erath. Notre Dame scored on four of five first half possessions and all but took the second half off in coasting to a 35-0 win.
“We were hoping to get a play early with the weather situation and not knowing what would happen,” explained Coach Louis Cook. “It wasn’t raining so we said let’s go with it. With Destin (former Pios assistant Deterich) there we knew they would be coached up to play hard and they came out and made a first down. It was really a nice throw and catch and got us off to a good start.”
After the Pios defense forced a punt on the first Erath possession, quarterback Ryan Leonards took the snap at the Notre Dame 38 yard line. Wide receiver Morgan Allen streaked past the free safety down the middle of the field, hauled in the aerial bomb inside the Bobcats 30 yard line and outran defenders for the score. Stephen Benoit added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
“You can say we were trying to catch them off guard a little after such a good game running the ball last week,” explains Pios QB Ryan Leonards. “We look at something like that every game to see what type of situation we might face. If you can get a big play and score right off like that it jump starts the whole team and can change the game in your favor pretty quickly.”
Erath was able to slip in a breath of offense here and there, but an option offense with just 22 yards rushing on 21 carries in the first half won’t carry you very far. Every time the Bobcats had a positive gain it was followed by defensive stops to put the ball back in the hands of Leonards and the offense.
With a second and five at the Erath 37, Jacob Molbert dropped Bobcat tailback Aaron Darby for a 3-yard loss. Erath went wide right on a pitch to Joshua Pillette and linebacker Hunter Stover ran him down for a four-yard loss.
Notre Dame needed just four plays and a little over a minute to march 46 yards to pay dirt. Marshall Watson burst straight ahead for a 17-yard gain and Stu Cook took a pitch left for another 13 yards. Watson went up the middle for 11 more and a first and goal at the five. Cook then swept right and cut inside defenders for the score and a 14-0 lead.
On the next series, Erath got a 30-yard pass completion from Jude Cessac to Darby that put the ball at the Bobcat 48 yard line. After a gain of one on first down, Seth Fruge and Kevin Johnston teamed to drop running back Cole Bourque for a three-yard loss. On the next play, Jacob Molbert fired off his defensive end spot to drop Cessac for a loss of six and end the series.
“We weren’t really doing anything special, just playing good technique and being disciplined,” noted Molbert. “You have to play assignments against the option. Someone takes the dive, another has the quarterback and another the pitch so you have to stay focused. No matter who we are against every week, we just try to execute our scheme, play hard and work at getting better.”
Notre Dame took the next possession 77 yards in 7 plays. Logan Venable carried three times for 40 yards, Leonards hooked up with Drew Trahan for a completion of 8 yards and Luke Besse slashed 13 yards to the Bobcats seven.
On second and goal, Besse slanted off right tackle and cut back to the middle for a seven-yard TD run. Benoit added the point after to make it 21-0.
Aided by a pass interference call, Erath drove into Pios territory for the first time with just under six minutes in the second quarter. On fourth and 11 from the Pios 31, Michael Dysart and Molbert dropped QB Cessac for a six-yard loss.
At the ND 37, Stu Cook ran for gains of three and nine yards then took a swing pass left from Leonards for nine more. Watson went up the middle for runs of 8, 10 and 9 yards. Cook picked up six on a middle screen and on second down from the four took it near the goal line.
A holding penalty pushed the PIos back to the eleven and from there Leonards looked left for Zach D’Aquin. The junior wideout broke towards his QB and snared a screen at the left hash mark. Sprinting right, D’Aquin cut inside two Bobcat tacklers for his first TD catch of the year. William Premeaux added the extra point with 1:30 to play in the half for a 28-0 Pios lead.
The teams traded fumbles to start the third quarter and Erath came up with a defensive stop on fourth and one at the Bobcats 41 yard line. But the Pios defense quickly turned the momentum back in their favor with a three and out.
The ensuing Erath punt was blocked and recovered at the Erath 21 by Jacob Molbert. The senior would lead the Pios in tackles this night with 10, including 2 sacks and 3 tackles for lost yardage.
Coach Louis Cook gave his offensive leaders one final series and the Pios starters wrapped up the scoring in four plays. From the Wild Pio, Stu Cook broke a tackle at the line and gained 15 to the Erath 10. Marshall Watson gained seven up the middle and on the next play started right and cut across the pursuit for a 3-yard TD run to make the final tally 35-0.
“We wanted to go out and get a good series in the second half, get a drive and get a score,” added Cook. “Then we were able to get some guys in there and give them some time on the field and that will help us down the road.”
It was another stellar defensive performance for Notre Dame. Erath had the ball for less than seven minutes in the second half and finished the night with just 81 total yards on 40 offensive snaps. The Bobcats converted only one of 11 third down plays and put the ball on the ground six times, losing two fumbles.
“It’s hard to put plays together against our defense the way they are playing,” concluded Coach Cook. “You don’t see the option a lot now days and in one week you have to change your thought process about how you are going to defend people. We’ll see it again at North Vermilion, they’re similar offensively. It was a good start to District and now we have to run it around on a short week to get ready for Rayne on Thursday.”