Former Coach: Cook, Pios earn revenge win for state title
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Dec. 7, 2018
It was a football game to the eyes of the fans and media observing Thursday’s Division III state championship game at the Superdome between Notre Dame and defending state champion Catholic High of New Iberia.
But really, it was little more than a chess match between two coaching staffs.
Last year, Catholic High coach Brent Indest rebounded from a 37-0 loss to the Pios by going back to the Wing-T basics and it worked like a charm in a 33-16 win.
On Thursday, he went back to the shotgun after the 49-0 regular-season.
Like last year, it produced a much better effort.
Unlike last year, Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook’s Pioneers were more than up for the challenge in a 42-21 revenge win over Catholic High.
“I think one thought everybody had on their mind was last year, having won the Week 4 game and then getting whipped pretty good last year,” Cook said. “Is the gris-gris on again? I know it was a concern of all of us.
“It was obvious the kids were focused in. You could see the determination and the effort.”
Not only did the Panthers go away from the Wing-T offense that they ran all season, but the defense changed from a 3-3-stack to a four-man front as well.
“No doubt (biggest chess match of in these four meetings over last two seasons),” Cook said. “They were in formations that we never even looked at. Defensively, I’ve never faced them in these four games with them playing a four-man front.
“We thought they would change, but still leave a guy over the center. They went four-man front. But yeah, it was a huge chess match.”
Catholic’s changes didn’t take long to work.
Head Coach Lewis Cook Jr as the Notre Dame Pios take down Catholic High New Iberia to win the Division II State Championship. Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)
On the first play from scrimmage, Trey Amos busted loose on an 83-yard touchdown run.
Imagine the frustration of the Pios’ coaches right away.
“I’m thinking preparation is overrated,” Cook joke “We stopped that play a thousand times during those two weeks and there they go.
“The guy’s a tremendous athlete. We knew he would have his moments. We just didn’t know it would be the first moment of the game.”
But the Pios quickly responded with a five-play, 67-yard drive in 2:16 to tie it.
Amos would end up rushing for 139 yards and throwing for 139 as well, but Notre Dame’s defense corralled him enough for the Pios’ great work on offense to pay off big.
Meanwhile, Noah Bourgeois rushed for 162 yards and three scores to earn MVP honors for the Pios.
“I would have bet a lot of money that we were going to get them on the first couple plays we ran, because we manipulated some things,” said Indest, also referring to a 37-yard pass to Alex Guilbeau one play later. “But after that, you just wish you could keep running them over and over, but they adjust.
“But they’re so smart. They’re not going to give that to you over and over.”
The new four-man front works at times, but Notre Dame busted more plays outside.
“It slowed them down inside, but we didn’t do a very good job containing the edge,” Indest said. “They’re a really good team at bouncing. You think you’ve got them going sideways and they’re just fast. They’re just extremely fast.”
Although Catholic’s big changes didn’t produce a win like a year ago, Indest said he’s got no regrets.
“I liked our game plan,” he said. “ I wouldn’t change a thing. I think if we come out in base offense, we throw a goose egg up there.
“We went double-tight, double-wide, which at least makes then true up. The whole idea, let’s try to get Trey (Amoms) in space and let’s try to get (wide receiver) Peter (LeBlanc) one-on-one and when they double Peter, let’s try to get it to Trey Henry, because Trey has really good hands.”
LeBlanc, a UL commitment, had six receptions for 67 yards.
The changes achieved some success in the second half as well. A 35-yarder pass to LeBlanc set up a 1-yard Amos TD run and a 35-yarder to Henry led to a Henry 1-yard score to keep the Panthers alive.
But on both occasions, it was Cook’s turn to reach into his bag of tricks.
As Cook explained, the Pios worked on a tight end reverse all season long, but hardly ever used it.
On the first play, after both of Catholic’s second-half touchdowns, Cook called it and Thomas Bellard responded in a huge way with runs of 40 and 35 yards to set up eventual Notre Dame scores to keep Catholic from ever getting any closer.
Bellard also had a 17-yard touchdown catch in the second half.
It was a sign that Cook too was in no mood to play it close to the vest after last year’s state finals loss to the Panthers.
Earlier, Cook threw the ball down the field for an interception one play after Jacob Dore intercepted Amos near midfield.
With no regrets.
“I came into this game thinking, ‘We’re going to hold it back. We weren’t going to be so conservative that we put ourselves in a bind at the end,’” Cook said. “I told (quarterback) Ben (Broussard), ‘Don’t worry about it.’ We planned to take some shots.”
In other words, as Indest put it, the master just wasn’t going to be denied this time around.
"I think we woke a sleeping giant last year in this game,” Indest said reluctantly. “Lewie Cook this year, in my opinion, with all the respect in the world, I think he coached with a chip on his shoulder. I saw him do things so much more offensively.
“Last year, I thought he wasn’t doing as much. He came out in the first game this year and they had blood in their eyes.”
It’s tough enough to beat the Pios normally, but this was obviously an extra-focused version.
“Even in this game, they were so multiple,” Indest said. “When you combine what they can do straight up out of the I-formation and then Lewie gets that evil genius going, the way he can manipulate you offensively, it just makes it really hard.”