By Dan McDonald (Special to Acadiana Postgame)

CROWLEY – There were some long faces at Gardiner Memorial Stadium midway through Friday’s third quarter, and some happy ones on the Breaux Bridge sideline.

Julian Leon, the Tiger quarterback operating with a sore shoulder, had just connected with Tyrick Davis on a quick slant which turned into a 65-yard touchdown, and the visiting Tigers held a surprising 14-3 lead over Notre Dame’s top-ranked Pioneers.
But Notre Dame doesn’t have three state titles in the last decade, and a string of nine straight district crowns, for nothing.

Over the final 18 minutes, the Pioneers went back to what got them to their lofty status – solid defense, a strong running game and big plays on special teams. It was a combination of those three that helped NDHS rally back with 23 unanswered points and take a 26-14 victory in the two teams’ annual rivalry.

“They did what they do,” said Breaux Bridge coach Terry Martin. “They played just great defense in the second half. I learn something every time we play them.”

The Pios (2-0) scored on three straight possessions in a span of seven minutes, taking their first lead on the first play of the final quarter on Bryant Thevis’ 15-yard pass to Collin Kirsch. But it was two plays in the kicking game in the final 3:19 of the third quarter that started the ball rolling for Class 2A’s top-ranked squad.

First, Patrick Burleigh roared in to block BBHS punter Bailey Thibodeaux’s kick from his own end zone, the ball rolling over the back line for a safety that pulled Notre Dame within 14-5.

After the free kick and a return into Tiger territory, Kirsch carried for most of a 41-yard drive and finished it himself with a one-yard run 33 seconds before the end of the period to make it a two-point game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Pioneers got their other big special-teams play when Waylon Bourgeois hit Tiger return standout Sa’barian Alexander and forced a fumble. Burleigh was again in the right place for the recovery at the Breaux Bridge 15. Three plays later Thevis found Kirsch on a quick out to the left side, and Kirsch broke a tackle and dove into the end zone for a 19-14 lead.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame defense came alive after halftime. Other than Leon’s touchdown strike to Davis, the Tigers didn’t complete another pass and didn’t have another first down in the second half.

“Give a lot of credit to the defense in the second half,” said Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook after his 323rd career victory. “They just got the one big play. We tried to make them one-dimensional, and if you can do that it becomes a lot easier.”

Notre Dame held the Tigers (1-1) to a net 12 yards rushing, and other than Leon’s 12-yard scramble early in the final quarter – when he slid down short of what would have been a key first down – BBHS didn’t have another running play of double-digit yardage.

“We can’t throw it every down,” said Martin, whose Tigers put up five scores in a 25-28 win over New Iberia in the opening weekend. “Defensively, our guys played a lot better and fought to the end. But the safety sort of started things snowballing.”

The Breaux Bridge defense didn’t allow Notre Dame to cross midfield until the final minute before halftime, and by that time the Tigers had a 7-0 lead. Thanks in large part to two key penalties – two of seven the Pios were whistled for totaling 81 first-half yards – the Tigers drove to the ND 31 late in the second quarter before Leon re-aggravated a shoulder injury and had to leave.

But backup Cole Mouton found Gregory on a bubble screen on fourth-and-10, and Gregory cut back outside to complete a 31-yard scoring run for the game’s first score 1:13 before halftime.

Notre Dame, though, got three quick completions from Thevis in those closing seconds and John William Lamm hit a 33-yard field goal at the horn.

“To get three on the board going into halftime was big for us,” Cook said.

Thevis ended up throwing for 99 yards on eight-of-15 passes, and added the clinching touchdown himself on a five-yard option run with 5:48 left. The Pios drove 41, 30 and 53 yards on their three touchdown drives.

“We had bad field position the whole second half,” Martin said.

The Pios, who were stagnant at times offensively in their opening 13-6 road win at LaGrange, finished with 251 offensive yards – 165 of them after halftime.

“You can see them getting better every quarter,” Cook said of his offense. “They needed something to give them some confidence, and I think they found it in the second half.”

Notre Dame 26, Breaux Bridge 14
BBHS  0 7 7 0   -- 14
NDHS 0 3 9 14  -- 26
Second Quarter
BBHS – Dartravian Gregory 31 pass from Cole Mouton (Bailey Thibodeaux kick)
NDHS – John William Lamm 33 field goal
Third Quarter
BBHS – Tyrick Davis 65 pass from Julian Leon (Thibodeaux kick)
NDHS – Safety, Thibodeaux punt blocked by Patrick Burleigh out of end zone
NDHS – Collin Kirsch 1 run (Lamm kick)
Fourth Quarter
NDHS – Kirsch 15 pass from Bryant Thevis (Lamm kick)
NDHS – Thevis 5 run (Lamm kick)

BBHS   NDHS
First downs            10         17
Rushing Yards       12        152
Passing Yards      166        99
Total Yards            178       251
Comp-Att-Int       7-23-1   8-15-0
Punts                  4-27.5   7-32.7
Fumbles-lost          3-1       0-0
Penalties-yards     6-65     9-96

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING – BBHS: Julian Leon 4-10, Logan Bossier 9-6, Malik LeBlanc 12-1, team 1-minus 5. NDHS: Collin Kirsch 17-101 1 TD, Sam Hoffpauir 7-24, Steven Zaunbrecher 9-24, Justin Guidry 4-15, Bryant Thevis 3-minus 14 1 TD, Mason Romero 1-2.
PASSING – BBHS: Leon 6-21-1, 135 yds., 1 TD, Cole Mouton 1-2-0, 31 yds., 1 TD. NDHS: Thevis 8-15-0, 99 yds., 1 TD.
RECEIVING – BBHS: Dartravian Gregory 3-66 1 TD, Tyrick Davis 3-91 1 TD, Blake Hebert 1-9. NDHS: Zack Miller 3-34, Hoffpauir 2-34, Landon Meche 2-16, Kirsch 1-15 1 TD.