by Dan McDonald (Special to Acadiana Postgame)

CROWLEY – Notre Dame’s followers likely had to do a double-take in the first minute of the Pioneers’ District 5-2A opener Friday night.

The visiting Loreauville Tigers needed only three plays with the opening kickoff to shock the state’s top-ranked Class 2A squad. Loreauville freshman quarterback A’Zyrian Alexander completed his first two passes for 61 yards on the game’s first two plays, and then broke a draw play for a 23-yard touchdown to give the visiting Tigers a stunning 6-0 lead only 61 seconds into the game.

“We tried to tell our kids that these guys can score,” said veteran Pioneer coach Lewis Cook, “and they got the big plays on us right out of the chute.”

But it took the hosts only 90 seconds to come back and take the lead, and from there it was clear sailing for the state’s top-ranked Class 2A squad.

The Pios stormed back in a big way, putting up five touchdowns on six first-half possessions to go with a safety, and eventually rolled to a 44-22 win at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.

Notre Dame (5-0) got a pair of rushing touchdowns from both Justin Guidry and Collin Kirsch in the first half, with Kirsch’s six-yard scamper at the halftime horn giving the Pioneers a 37-14 lead. That was enough to prompt the coaches and officials to go with a running clock for the second half, when each team pushed across one score.

Each of Notre Dame’s first three touchdowns capped drives of less than two minutes, but it was a drive that consumed the final 5:29 of the first half that finally took the wind out of the visiting Tigers. The Pioneers converted on three third downs in that drive, the last of which came on Kirsch’s sprint around the left end that provided the commanding lead.

Notre Dame then scored quickly on its second possession of the second half when Sam Hoffpauir punched across his second touchdown of the game from nine yards out.

“The touchdown was big on that last play of the half,” said Cook. “We were fortunate to use up some clock and punch it in, and then to get the one in the third quarter sort of sealed it for us.”

Loreauville (3-1), suffering its first loss, kept it within 16-14 in a wild first quarter when Brennon Williams’ 59-yard kickoff return set up Alexander’s 14-yard scoring strike to Bryson Broussard with still 4:42 left. In all, the teams combined for 37 first-period points.

After that, though, the Pios took control on offense and defense. Loreauville managed only 11 net yards rushing, while Kirsch, Guidry and Hoffpauir led the way in a 226-yard rushing attack.

But Cook had high praise for quarterback Bryant Thevis, who was a consistent 8-of-12 passing for 121 yards.

“He’s been playing really well for us,” Cook said of the senior who has led the Pio offense to 149 points in the last four games. “He stood in there and made some throws when he was getting hit. I’m really pleased with the way he’s got our offense going in the right direction.”

Alexander hit on 17-of-31 passes for 186 yards despite heavy pressure from the Notre Dame defense. He was only sacked once but was hit while throwing nearly a dozen times (11), and his 44-yard strike to Je’Dan Jacob on the game’s first play set up Loreauville’s early score. Broussard, in addition to his touchdown catch, had nine total grabs for 94 yards.

“You could tell early they had some explosiveness,” Cook said of the Tigers, “but it was good to see how our guys responded. The defense got a big fourth-down stop early and that let us get going a little bit.”

Thevis had back-to-back completions of 48 yards to set up Guidry’s 21-yard burst only 2:35 into the game that put Notre Dame ahead for good at 7-6. The Pios got a safety moments later when Thomas Stevens blocked Broussard’s punt, and after the free kick the Pios drove to a Hoffpauir seven-yard scoring run.

After Alexander’s scoring toss kept it close, Guidry capped a quick drive with a two-yard run and Kirsch scored on a three-yard burst for a 30-14 lead. David Schmid then intercepted Alexander at the Tiger 31 midway through the second period to set up Notre Dame’s drive just before halftime.

Notre Dame 44, Loreauville 22
LHS     14    0   8   0 -- 22
NDHS  23  14   7   0 -- 44
First Quarter
LHS – A’Zyrian Alexander 23 run (run failed)
NDHS – Justin Guidry 21 run (John William Lamm kick)
NDHS – Safety, Thomas Stevens blocked punt out of end zone
NDHS – Sam Hoffpauir 7 run (Lamm kick)
LHS – Bryson Broussard 14 pass from Alexander (Brennan Williams pass from Alexander)
NDHS – Guidry 2 run (Lamm kick)
Second Quarter
NDHS – Collin Kirsch 3 run (Lamm kick)
NDHS – Kirsch 6 run (Lamm kick)
Third Quarter
NDHS – Hoffpauir 9 run (Lamm kick)
LHS – Alexander 2 run (Williams pass from Alexander)

LHS       NDHS
First downs                     11            15
Rushing Yards                11           226
Passing Yards               186          121
Total Yards                     197          347
Comp-Att-Int              17-31-1      8-12-0
Punts                           5-23.8       4-40.0
Fumbles-lost                   2-0          1-1
Penalties-yards             7-49         7-75

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING – LHS: A’Zyrian Alexander 5-38 2 TD, Leslie Joseph 3-minus 1, team 2-minus 26. NDHS: Collin Kirsch 13-89 2 TD, Justin Guidry 6-63 2 TD, Sam Hoffpauir 4-33 2 TD, Steven Zaunbrecher 3-20, Mason Romero 6-17, Waylon Bourgeois 3-4.
PASSING – LHS: Alexander 17-31-1, 186 yds., 1 TD. NDHS: Bryant Thevis 8-12-0, 121 yds.
RECEIVING – LHS: Bryson Broussard 9-94 1 TD, Je’Dan Jacob 4-68, Brennon Williams 2-17, Logan Thibodeaux 1-1, Shae Lee 1-6. NDHS: Gentry Borill 3-26, Kirsch 2-52, Hoffpauir 1-23, Landon Meche 1-12, Hunter LeJeune 1-8.