THE POST-SIGNAL / Jason Faul
Notre Dame’s Collin Kirsch picks up a big gain Thursday during the Pios’ 48-7 thrashing of Welsh. Kirsch picked up 91 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in the win.
Pios pound Welsh in battle of 2A unbeatens
There was no calm before the storm Thursday night in Welsh. Top ranked Notre Dame brought thunder and lightning to the battle of District 6-2A unbeatens in a 48-7 thrashing of the #3 Greyhounds.
The Pios defense brought the thunder in holding the high scoring Welsh offense to just two first downs and 63 total yards in the first half. The lightning came from a quick strike Notre Dame offense that hung 41 first half points on the scoreboard.
“When you are on the road in a big game, you hope to get off to a fast start and it doesn’t get much faster than that,” said a happy Pios coach Lewis Cook. “We punched them a couple of times quick and they had a hard time getting into rhythm after that. They are really a good football team. Our guys just got after it in a way we haven’t seen for a long time.”
About the only thing Welsh got right in the first half was winning the coin toss, but even that was a bust. After deferring and kicking off, Gabe Link returned the short kick 22 yards to the Pios 42. Collin Kirsch swept the left side for 12 yards and a first down at the Welsh 46.
Pios QB Garrett Bergeron mishandled the next snap, but scooped up the ball and calmly found Gentry Borill on a go route down the middle. Borill made a fingertip catch for 45 yards and Bergeron scored on a sneak. Three plays and a John William Lamm extra point gave the Pios a 7-0 lead.
“Gentry’s catch kind of set the tone,” added Cook. “That was not an easy catch and Garrett didn’t panic on the snap. He threw a nice ball and that got us going. We felt there were some things we could do against them and it all clicked early.”
The Pios were far from done in the first quarter as Tucker Kojis and John Hoffpauir combined to sack Welsh QB Zach Hayes at the Greyhound 15-yard line. A Cameron Nelson punt return set up the Pios on the Welsh 35.
Noah Bourgeois plowed through for 18 yards on first down. On third and six at the Welsh 13, Bergeron targeted Landon Meche on a quick curl for a first and goal at the Greyhound 5. Two plays later Waylon Bourgeois took it in from four yards and a high snap on the PAT left the score at 20-0 Pios.
Welsh gambled on fourth and one on the next possession and got a 10-yard run off the right side by Charlie Watkins. On the next play, Cam Nelson blitzed off the edge forcing Hayes to throw quickly and high. Jacob Dore intercepted at the Pios 43 and returned to the Welsh 39.
After exchanging possessions, Cam Nelson returned a punt 17 yards to the Welsh 40 and was hit late out of bounds tacking on 15 yards down to the 25. Bergeron tossed a swing pass to Noah Bourgeois who turned it up for 13 yards to the Welsh 12. Four plays later Waylon Bourgeois followed the Pios power package from the one-yard line for the score. Lamm add the PAT for a 27-0 lead.
The Pios defense kept Welsh guessing the entire first half by mixing schemes, controlling the front, and putting pressure on Hayes of Welsh. Tailback Charlie Watkins was able to slip around tacklers on a screen pass for 39 yards for the first trip into Pios turf at the ND 38. On the next play, Hayes went downfield and Pios DB Konnor Broussard played it perfectly, laying back until the release and breaking through the receiver to intercept and return 44 yards to the Welsh 25.
“We wanted to mix things up with the front, jump into our bear package and show different looks,” noted defensive coordinator James McCleary. “We wanted to make sure we had enough people corralling the quarterback and just kept mixing it up with 3 man, 4 man and bear front. We picked our spots and kept them off guard by mixing it up and it worked well.”
Notre Dame quickly turned the interception into points with Bergeron converting a third down on a 12-yard pass to Kaizer Lamm. From the Welsh nine, C.J. Thibodeaux swept the left side and at the goal line shouldered two defenders out of the way for the touchdown. Lamm added the point after for a 34-0 Notre Dame lead.
Facing third and five at the Welsh 30, Hayes tossed a quick screen to wide receiver Da’Ren Zeno. Garrett Cormier saw it coming and met Zeno full speed at the time of catch for a five yard loss. Noah Bourgeois returned the ensuing punt 14 yards, but a penalty pushed the Pios back for their second longest scoring drive of the night at 57 yards.
Running back Collin Kirsch, who led the Pios with 91 rushing yards on 12 carries, got his biggest chunk on a 38-yard first down, showing speed moves and power to the Welsh 19. Bergeron threw a swing pass to Kirsch for a 10 yard gain and Kirsch scored his second TD on a 1 yard run with a minute left in the half. John William Lamm booted the point after and the Pios took a 41-0 lead at intermission.
““Collin had the best week that he has had all season long,” stated head coach Lewis Cook. “He was fast and looked quick on his cuts. He had such a good week in practice with every handoff he took he was 20 yards down field. The way he looked all week is the way he played tonight.”
The Pios offense was virtually unstoppable in the first half. The defense and special teams continuously set them up on a short field and the offense scored on six of seven possessions.
“I knew we had a good week of practice and I could tell on Monday the mindset was totally different,” added Cook. “Shortening the week up, you never know what is going to happen. Our guys played fast, executed and were a step ahead of them. We probably haven’t been as focused since the Teurlings game. We played with great effort and enthusiasm on both sides of the ball.”
Welsh came out to start the second half and drove to the Pios 10, mostly on a 46 yard pass from Hayes to Zeno across the middle that he was able to turn up the sideline. Faced with pressure from Alex Gardiner and Kojis, the next two pass attempts fell incomplete. With fourth and five, Welsh tried to run Watkins through for the first down and Cody Leblanc and Joe Pommier stopped him a yard short.
“We put a lot of pressure on their quarterback and wanted to continue to play hard defense,” said Cook. “Those guys can score and that’s why we had starters on the field to begin the third quarter. We were going to figure out as we went along how long they would stay out there.”
The Pios had trouble getting out of the hole and John William Lamm came in to punt 49 yards to the Welsh 40. Watkins got the Greyhounds a first down with three runs and Hayes connected on a post pattern to Da’Ren Zeno who had worked behind defenders for a 54-yard touchdown.
That’s a good quarterback and our defense made him look like just a regular guy on a lot of plays,” Cook added. “Now some plays he looked pretty dang good, like those two long passes, but we kept him contained and under a lot of pressure and he didn’t hit anything big until well into the second half.”
The Pios responded with Noah Bourgeois returning the kickoff 67 yards to the Welsh 29. Bourgeois had his number called five times on the seven play scoring drive. An eight yard quick slant from Bergeron to Borill got the ball to the two where Noah Bourgeois took that fifth carry in for the capping touchdown. Lamm’s extra point made it 48-7.