THE POST-SIGNAL / Christell Faul
Notre Dame running back Dominic Thibodeaux (7) runs behind lead blocker Hayden Istre (79) last week during the Pios’ 42-0 victory over Lake Arthur. The Pios close out regular season play on Friday with a road contest at Port Barre.
Pios close eventful regular season at Port Barre
In 52 seasons of football, the Notre Dame Pios have become pretty accustomed to winning. More often than not, that 82% success rate paved an easy path through the regular season for a deep run in the playoffs.
Every now and then, things happen. Unexpected things that make the path tough to navigate.
Head Coach Lewis Cook has had to deal with a few of those seasons. He is currently experiencing those type of extraordinary circumstances with his current team, but the Pios are still headed in the right direction.
“It’s hard to put your finger on any one particular thing. Everything went so smooth last year, particularly injury wise. We had one week where our linebackers were out but played all season without a hitch. This year we had to move some guys early, lost a couple of good players to season ending surgery a couple of weeks ago and had to make some personnel changes again. It’s been a long time since we have been teaching guys positions in the middle of the season. That makes it a little difficult.”
With one regular season game remaining, thoughts are turning toward the playoffs and the numbers speak for themselves.
Currently in his 23rd season at Notre Dame, his teams are a combined 264-38. The playoff record under Cook is 57-17 with 19 trips to the quarterfinals, 16 semifinal appearances and 10 Championship Games, winning four state titles.
With the split system still in place, getting there is no mystery for select schools as most all make the playoff bracket. Notre Dame has played the cards that were dealt and appears headed for a #2 seed with all the goals still ahead for accomplishment.
“We don’t really talk about the power rankings during the season,” Cook adds. “Coach Lew (Cook, Jr) keeps up with it and we are paying attention now at the end for matchups. With a first-round bye, we’ll be home in the second round and the rules say higher seed is at home in the semis, so we are home as long as we win. It looks like we have the possibility of hosting Catholic High in the second round and St. Charles the next week.”
Coach Cook has always approached games with the idea that his team will do what it does best and work to improving their strengths. Things being as they are and with all due respect, the Pios are likely to go four weeks without a challenge.
“Week nine is ideally the game you want to have to play longer in to push your team,” explains Cook. “To have the last three weeks like we have with the cancelled game, you get rested a bit, but I don’t know if it is really an advantage. I told the kids several weeks ago that practice is the most important thing we are doing. We work on setting up things that can help us down the line when execution is even more important.”
Practice time is even more important for two players jumping into new positions. Senior Jack Faulk is the team leader in receptions with 16 catches for 217 yards and four scores. One of those TDs was a 33-yard bubble screen that included some speedy moves and elusive running last week against Lake Arthur. Faulk has also moved into the defensive secondary to shore up the safety position.
“It’s a lot different for Jack in the secondary and he has done a good job by picking up a lot of what we are doing in a short period of time,” continued Cook. “Another week and another game and he can make a difference for us on defense. Jack is very athletic, and we want to continue using him on offense. He wants to play receiver and we want him there, so we’ll pick our spots.”
Junior Dom Thibodeaux was pulled over from defense and is working into the lead ball carrier role. Thibodeaux gained 44 yards on seven carries and scored on a one-yard power play. He also took a screen pass 47-yards for another score. Moving Thibodeaux to running back is something Coach Lewis Cook was probably going to make next season anyway.
“You can’t help but be pleased with what you see from Dom in the backfield. The change is a lot easier for him. You line up, take the ball and go where you are told, but he is excited about running with the ball and he is instinctive with the ball in his hands. That screen pass he scored on was one of three we called in the game. It is the type of play where everyone has to do their job to execute properly and they did.”
Notre Dame and Port Barre have not met on the football field since the 1994 season, a 34-0 Pios second round playoff win, in fact all three Pios wins have been in the playoffs. Port Barre holds the series advantage with four straight wins from 1987 to 1990.
The Red Devils got off to a good start this season, winning four of their first six games. District play has been a struggle as they have dropped three straight to Lake Arthur (48-0), LCA (49-0) and Welsh (42-18).
Port Barre presents multiple looks on offense with Wing T looks from tight sets and spread formations on passing downs. Defensively, the Red Devils jump from a three man front with nickel backs to a preferred 50 defense on most downs.
Receivers Joseph Pickney and Terrol Roberts are double duty players that also start as cornerbacks. Dah’mond Thomas and Parker Speyrer handle most of the running duties behind senior offensive linemen Christian Fontenot (6-0, 195) and Camron Robertson. Thomas has multiple hundred-yard games at tailback this season. Sophomore Mason Leger has moved into quarterback duties and Andre Tremble lines up at wingback and as a receiver.
Junior nose tackle Colby Barron (5-9, 235) heads the defensive front. Seniors Keelan Semien (6-1, 170), Jai Johnson (6-3, 170) and Gavin Bergeron (6-0, 175) hold down defensive end spots.
Isiah McNell is small in stature but big in play at linebacker. Junior Terrol Roberts is a coverage leader at safety.