CROWLEY — Containing Iowa High’s offensive explosiveness was the goal that eventually became a masterpiece for the Notre Dame of Crowley defense Friday night at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.
NDHS limited Iowa to just 53 total yards and three first downs, as the No. 2 Pioneers won a Class 3A quarterfinal game 35-0.
The victory enabled Notre Dame (11-1) to advance to a semifinal round contest at East Feliciana next Friday. The semifinal marks the Pioneers’ second Class 3A semifinal appearance in the past four seasons.
Iowa ended the season 10-3. Two of the Yellow Jackets’ three losses came to NDHS, who are District 4-3A foes.
Notre Dame linebacker Matt Venable, who blocked a punt that the Pioneers turned into the game’s first touchdown on the final play of the first quarter, said the NDHS defensive goal was to keep Iowa from breaking long gains.
“The last time we played them, Iowa came in here and ran down the field on us. They made a couple of big plays on us, and that was something that we worked on, eliminating the big play,” Venable said.
Iowa coach Sean Richard said Notre Dame did nothing different defensively from earlier in the season when the Yellow Jackets lost 28-13.
“They played everything the same way. What did they stop on us? The answer would be everything. Their defense does a good job of keeping you pinned back, and that’s what happened,” Richard said.
Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook Jr. said the team’s defensive staff worked diligently throughout the week to create a cohesive plan.
“On defense, we just tried to key on the things that they might try. They have such good athletes at Iowa that you want to be ready for anything. They have been scoring points on everyone,” Cook said.
After a fumble thwarted a 48-yard opening drive, the Pioneers scored on the blocked punt.
Notre Dame called a timeout with six seconds remaining before blocking the punt with the Yellow Jackets punting from the 16-yard line.
“Actually, when we called the timeout, we were trying to set up a safety. The man who was supposed to block me didn’t, and I just went by him and got a hand on the punt,” Venable said.
The ball fell into the arms of Sam Veillion to give NDHS the one touchdown lead.
“That blocked punt was really a huge play. We had just driven the ball down the field and taken a lot of time off the clock, but we couldn’t finish,” Cook said.
Notre Dame finished with 340 total offensive yards. Sophomore quarterback Brad Stoma completed nine passes for 123 yards.
The Pioneers’ rushing attack was led by Luke Broussard, who carried 19 times for 97 yards.
NDHS also converted on nine of 14 third-down attempts.
The Pioneers, who outgained Iowa 218-13 in the first half, scored on the next two possessions to take the 19-0 first half lead.
NDHS used the running game to obtain most of the yards on the first TD march, but Stoma had a pair of key completions — a 13-yarder to Broussard and another for 38 yards to Nick Benoit.
Benoit’s catch put the Pioneers at the Iowa 3, and on the next play, running back John Michael Besse scored the game’s first touchdown.
Notre Dame traveled 72 yards on the next series for the half’s second touchdown.
Broussard and Austin Thibodeaux combined for 30 rushing yards, but Stoma’s 19-yard throw to Brandon Leger put the Pioneers at the Yellow Jackets’ 12. Benoit had a 6-yard reception for the touchdown.
In the second half, NDHS took a 21-0 lead on a safety that occurred when the officials ruled Iowa quarterback Austin Theriot intentionally grounded the ball while throwing from the end zone.
On the game’s next offensive series, Broussard had a 25-yard reverse, and Thibodeaux scored from a yard out on the next play, ending a four play, 41-yard drive.
The final Pioneers’ TD came when defensive back Gavin Bourgeois returned an intercepted pass 55 yards after it was tipped by Veillion.
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