CROWLEY – When the 2008 football season got underway in late August, about the only ones who gave the Notre Dame Pioneers a chance at reaching the state finals were the Pios themselves.
And a handful of die-hard fans, perhaps.
After all, the Pios returned just eight starters from the 2007 season and they were faced with having to replace their entire offensive line, not to mention having to take on one of the more formidable schedules they’ve had in recent years.
But, as has been the case for most Lewis Cook-coached teams, the Pios lived up to the school’s storied tradition and when all was said and done, the Pios were back in the big house on Poydras Street in early December.
Cook’s young squad did it by running the table against a tough non-district slate that included the likes of Breaux Bridge, Alexandria, Jennings and St. Louis and walking through 5-AAA play undefeated to earn Class AAA’s top seed heading into the playoffs.
They then cruised through the first two rounds of playoffs, before winning two nail-biters and garnering their fifth appearance in the title game since 2000.
The Pios’ run at a perfect season finally ended on the floor of the New Orleans Superdome on Dec. 12 when they were defeated by Lutcher, 17-0.
Nonetheless, it was a year to remember for the Pios.
For the year, the Pios’ offense gained a mind-boggling 444 points, or an average of just below 32 points per game, while, defensively, they allowed opponents just over 10 points per contest (115).
With numbers like that it is no surprise that the Pios landed 15 players on the T-Shirts Etc./Crowley Post-Signal All-Acadia Parish team announced today.
In addition, they also claimed two of the top three honors on the All-Parish team- Coach of the Year ( Lewis Cook) and Offensive MVP (Ryan Leonards).
The other individual award on the team - Defensive MVP - is Crowley High’s Jordan Ancelet.
Cook earned the honor for the second straight year after leading his team to back-to-back league titles while guiding them to at least the semifinals for the eighth time in the last 12 years. Since taking over at Notre Dame, Cook has compiled a record of 139-24. Overall, he is 239-69 in 39 seasons as a head coach.
Leonards, meanwhile, played a huge part in the Pios’ success this season. After missing the first two games with a staph infection, the junior quarterback returned to the lineup to throw for 1, 071 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final seven regular season games.
He threw for 159 yards and two more scores during the playoffs before going down with a broken collarbone in Notre Dame’s quarterfinal victory over Richwood.
Ancelet, a cat-quick senior lineman, anchored a stingy Gent defense that held the majority of their opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground.
He recorded 45 tackles and 40 assists during his senior campaign, including 11 sacks and 10 hurries. In addition, he was credited with forcing nine fumbles and recovering three.
On the offense, Leonards is joined in the backfield on this year’s All-Parish team by running backs Joseph Carrier (Church Point), Antonio Wheeler (Rayne) and Blaise LeJeune (Iota).
Carrier gained 839 yards and three touchdowns on 130 carries while Wheeler had 826 yards and nine touchdowns on 174 totes. LeJeune led Iota’s ground attack with 744 yards and 11 touchdowns on 142 carries.
Notre Dame’s Robert Johnson (18-415, 4 TDs) and Nick Zaunbrecher (16-265, 3 TDs) are joined by Iota’s Trenton Pickett (23-442, 5 TD) at the receiver spots. Notre Dame’s Phillip LeBlanc (15-172, 1 TD) made the team at tight end.
On the offensive line, Notre Dame’s Hunter Bordelon, Austin Berry and Matthew Casanova are joined by Church Point’s Jordy Boone and Jacob Sonnier.
The return specialist is Crowley’s Troy Wilridge, who averaged 14.9 yards on punt returns and 34.9 yards per return on kickoffs. He also returned two kickoffs for a touchdown, his longest going for 99 yards.
Church Point quarterback Blake Boudreaux is the athlete after also playing safety as well as holding the punting duties for the Bears.
On the defense, Ancelet is joined on the line by Notre Dame’s Jacob Molbert (77 tackles, 9 sacks) and John Graf (40 tackles, 5 sacks), Rayne’s Trace Duplantis (111 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and a blocked punt) and Church Point’s Derek Garrick (69 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries).
Linebackers on this year’s squad are Notre Dame’s Seth Fruge (90 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) and D.J. Welter (72 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), Crowley’s George Henagan (100 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) and Iota’s Justin Benoit (92 tackles, 2 interceptions).
Making up the secondary are Notre Dame’s Bryant Gilbert (34 tackles, 1 interception for a touchdown), Nick Ware (16 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Chance Oustalet (15 tackles, 1 interception). They are joined by Rayne’s Andrew Wynn (82 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions) and Church Point’s Derek Dailey (64 tackels, 1 forced fumble, 2 blocked PATs).
Rayne’s Tyler Venable (38.4 yard average) is the punter and Notre Dame's Hunter Bordelon is the kicker.