THE POST-SIGNAL / Jason Faul
Notre Dame’s Dominic Thibodeaux runs away from defenders Friday during the Pios’ 42-14 victory over the Eunice Bobcats. Thibodeaux ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the victory.
Notre Dame passes test from 4A Eunice
New surroundings, a renewed series against a nearby opponent and the regular season finale had Notre Dame players excited all week leading up to Friday night’s game at Eunice. The Bobcats did not disappoint in a game that seemed a lot more competitive than the 42-14 final score.
Notre Dame finished on a high note with its seventh win and Coach Lewis Cook now awaits the seeding announcement for the playoffs.
“It was a little scary coming in with what we saw on film. You could see them flying to the ball and making things difficult for opponents. We figured they would take some chances and pop a few good plays, but I was proud of the way our guys handled it. This was a real good win to end the regular season and we appreciate the chance to play a good team like Eunice. We are blessed to have played all eight weeks and not everybody can say that.”
While the Pios were again sharp on offense, it was the defense that helped forge a big early lead. Eunice took the opening kick and was stopped on three downs with gang tackling from Wesley Maze, who led the team with 10 tackles on the night, Lance Castille, Caleb Comeaux and Alex Stevens. A third down pass was knocked away by safety Nick Gautreaux and the Pios went to work on their first series of the night.
QB Parker Seilhan connected with receiver Luke Yuhasz for 18 yards down the sideline. On second and six at the Bobcat nine, fullback Ethan Menard powered straight up the middle to the one. Seilhan kept on a QB sneak for the score to cap the 53-yard drive.
“The guys came out and took that first drive down the field to put seven on the board and that was big for us,” added Cook. “When you can do that like we did, it kind of gets the other guys on their heels and is a boost for the defense also.”
The Pios defense converged on Eunice QB Simeon Ardoin on the next snap and jarred the ball from his grip. Karson Broussard recovered at the Eunice 25.
On third and 15 following a penalty, Seilhan looked for Yuhasz again on a deep out. Yuhasz made the catch and cut around the defender for another 18-yard completion to the Bobcat 12. Dom Thibodeaux slashed off right tackle two plays later for a five-yard TD run. Lucas Simon added his second PAT for a 14-0 lead.
Eunice found some success with Ardoin running the offense. Ardoin completed a pass to Jeoul Hill for 11 yards and used his speed off the edge for a 13-yard run. On first down at the Eunice 41, Simeon was hit and fumbled with Pios defensive lineman Karson Broussard coming up with his second recovery.
The Pios offense again converted the opportunity to extend the lead. Seilhan threw to Christian McNees down the right sideline and the sophomore receiver accelerated past the defense for a 43-yard touchdown. Simon added the point after to make it 21-0 after the first quarter.
“We just put that play in for Christian this week,” explained Cook. “Luke ran a post and he jumps in behind on a trail route. Parker put it right on the spot and Christian made some nice moves to get to the end zone.”
In spite of the score, the Eunice defense made the going tough for the Pios running game. Averaging close to seven yards a carry on the season, Pios runners would total 211 yards for the game, but needed 50 carries to get there.
“They were crowding up and had three linebackers inside on a lot of plays,” noted Cook. “We worked all week on seeing where their number 27 was lining up and checking away because he would be the extra guy for our formations. We would line up in strong right and he was over the tight end. So, I said ok we will line up in that and go weak side. Well, we do that, and he is on the weak side. That created some problems at times.”
It would be the big play that kept the offense rolling on the next possession.
Seilhan connected with Yuhasz for a 44-yard gain to the Bobcat 39. Simon took a swing pass to the right side and ran over two tacklers for an eight-yard gain. From the Eunice 27, Seilhan looked for a receiver with tight protection for what seemed like an eternity. The pocket opened up front and Seilhan took the gap and cut to the left sideline for a 20-yard run.
“Parker threw the ball really well and Luke Yuhasz made a couple of big catches early in the game,” continued Cook. “He also made some nice runs, and he is a hard guy to get on the ground with his size and speed. He is playing with a lot of confidence now and that has made a big difference in our offense.”
Thibodeaux slashed off right tackle for a seven-yard TD run on the ninth play of a 78-yard drive that took 5:05 off the clock. Simon booted the extra point for a 28-0 Pios lead.
Ardoin put his team on the scoreboard following the ensuing kickoff. He cut the corner on the right side for a 32-yard run to get the Bobcats moving.
Ardoin led Eunice with 40 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The senior QB threw for 144-yards in the game and got 28 of those on the next play hooking up with Dylan Guillory. On fourth and five at the Pios 20, Ardoin threw to Guillory on the left side for a touchdown. The PAT made it 28-7 at the half after the Bobcats stopped a Pios drive at the Bobcat 38.
Notre Dame came up short again on its first possession of the second half. Seilhan ran for 22 yards on first down, but the Eunice defense came up big on fourth and six at the Bobcat 11 with a sack of the Pios QB to take over.
“ We felt it was important for us to get a score with that first drive of the second half,” explained Cook. “They are athletic and move around a lot on defense. We had the two drives at the end of the first half and start of the second we could not finish. Their offense is pretty good and we wanted to keep the pressure on because they can score from anywhere.”
Eunice picked up a first down on three running plays and then Bobcat QB Ardoin dropped back to pass. Pios end Gabe Leonards beat him to the spot and knocked the ball loose, scooping up the fumble and returning 25-yards for a TD. Simon added the extra point to make it 35-7.
“We had two drives stall which was disappointing, but our defense was again lights out,” Cook continued. “To hold that offense the way they did and give up just a couple of big passes with our cornerbacks depleted due to injury and quarantine was a big effort. The fumble touchdown by Gabe was the big play of the game. It kind of sealed away any comeback.”
The Bobcats did not have any quit in them and showed why on the next series. Ardoin went deep down the middle for a 68-yard completion to Hill all the way to the Pios three. Hill swept the left side with a handoff from Ardoin on the next play to make it 35-14.
The Pios defense rose to push Eunice back to the Bobcat three with a tackle for loss by Caleb Comeaux and Parker Link and a sack by Wesley Maze. Punting from their end zone, Eunice gave it to the Pios at the Bobcat 31.
It took seven runs highlighted by gains from Simon and Menard to find the end zone. Simon got the score from two yards out and the PAT by Cameron Fusilier made the final 42-14.
“Defensively, our guys just made it tough on them and they could not sustain a running game,” summed up Coach Cook. We saw on film that they came out of plays with some long gains. Our guys did not let them get any of that in the running game. We will wait to see where we are in the bracket. We think we will be three and off the first week, so we have two weeks to get ready.”