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The Notre Dame Pioneers and the Catholic New Iberia Panthers will battle it out for the Division III state championship. (Photo provided by Jace LeJeune)

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division III State Championship Game Preview

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division III State Championship Preview

by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen

Well, here we are. We have reached the final destination when it comes to the Road to the Dome. 13 teams had one goal in mind and that goal is to be one of nine teams in the end holding a state championship trophy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the Queen smash hit “We Are the Champions” playing in the background. Now, 11 teams’ seasons are over and there are only now only two teams standing. Both teams had a long journey to get to this point, but now, only one team will get the taste of sweet victory while the other team will suffer the agony of defeat. The Louisiana high school football stage does not get any brighter than this. A weekend filled with great championship matchups kicks off this Thursday and the games will conclude on Saturday. The final game on Thursday will be the Division III state championship game, which will feature the two best private school 2A football teams in the state. In this game, the Notre Dame Pioneers will face the Catholic New Iberia Panthers. Both of these teams have shown that they have what it takes to win the state championship, but which of the two teams will be able to get the win in the end? Well, Louisiana Football Magazine’s expert Lee Brecheen has seen all of these teams play and gives his insight on which team will win the Division III state championship. This week, we will get you all covered in what you need to know for the Division III state championship game.

Division III State Championship:

Matchup: #1 Notre Dame Pioneers (11-0)  vs. #3 Catholic New Iberia Panthers (11-1)

Game Info: Thursday, December 7th at 7:00 P.M.

Notre Dame’s Road to the Dome: Bye in first round; 45-0 win over Episcopal in quarterfinals; 41-31 win over Riverside Academy in semi-finals

Notre Dame Team Preview: Once again, the Notre Dame Pioneers entered the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the state championship. With a Hall of Fame Coach like Lewis Cook, who has won over 300 games and four state championships, there is no counting out the Pios. The team is the number one seed in the bracket due to their perfect 9-0 regular season finish. The Pioneers are always a well coached football team that always has solid football players. The Pioneers have a lot of new starters entering this season, but at the same time, all these players had valuable playing time even when they where not starting. Besides being well coached, the Pioneers have a couple of advantages including a lot of depth at the skill positions which include RB Collin Kirsch, who runs with power and speed, WR Gentry Borill, WR Zac Miller, and ATH Cameron Nelson, who is the team’s Swiss Army Knife as he can play any position the team wants him to play. The defense has also been very dominant besides giving up almost 40 points to Kinder in a 38-37 win. They also gave up 31 points in their last playoff game against Riverside Academy. Besides those two games, the Pioneers have only given up 40 points the entire season. The defense is led by All-District players such as Alec Brouillette and Thomas Stevens. The team also has very strong special teams play. They can also play up to the strengths of their opponent whether it is playing a physical game that will depend on good field position and running the football or if it is a high scoring shootout. This team can adjust and it does not beat themselves. That is what well-coached teams do. If Catholic New Iberia is going to win this football game, they are definitely going to have to outplay Notre Dame because there is one thing for sure and that is the Pios will not just give the game away. For Coach Cook, he will be looking for his fifth state championship in his legendary career.

Catholic New Iberia’s Road to the Dome: Bye in first round; 49-28 win over Calvary Baptist in quarterfinals; 49-7 win over Isidore Newman in semi-finals

Catholic New Iberia Team Preview: The Catholic New Iberia Panthers, under Brent Indest, have one of the most explosive Wing-T offenses in all of the state. It may seem like your ordinary Wing T offense, but with a great athlete such as Diallo Landry at quarterback, the Panthers have the ability to throw the football when they need to. Landry has always been a great runner and has always had that frame to break through tackles at 6-3, 200 pounds and with 4.55 speed, but he has taken the next step as a passer to help the Panthers win the 6-2A district championship and to appear in the team’s second state championship game in two years. This season, his statistics have backed Landry up for being a dual threat as he has thrown for 1,629 yards and 16 touchdowns while running for almost 600 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Arguably, the most impressive statistic that Landry has had this season is the fact that he has not thrown an interception this season. However, it is not all the Diallo Landry show as RB Jaden Stokes helps take the load off Landry’s shoulders and wideouts Peter Leblanc and Ben Landry help make great targets for the senior quarterback on the outside. The defense was the question mark heading into the season as the team lost standout DT Zi’Yon Hill (ULL) to graduation, but the unit has taken great strides in the season shutting out their last three opponents before their second round playoff matchup. Once again, the Panthers were able to go by the Greenies for another chance at the Superdome. The last time the Panthers appeared in a state championship in 2014, it was Calvary Baptist that was able to prevail with a 24-21 win. Now, this year’s challenge will be going up against one of the best football programs in the state in the Notre Dame Pios, who dominated the Panthers earlier this year in a 37-0 victory.

 

Lee’s Pick: “This is going to be a rematch that occurred during the season. Notre Dame defeated Catholic New Iberia pretty handedly. It is hard to beat anybody twice and both teams know each other really well. I don’t think any teams know each other better than these two teams that are in the Dome. Diallo Landry is going to have the game of his life to beat Notre Dame. I didn’t think Newman was able to contend with Catholic New Iberia physically, but Notre Dame can play with anybody when it comes to physicality. I think Lewis Cook will win another state championship.”

Jace’s Pick: “It is great to see a regular season rematch in the Superdome between two Lafayette area teams in Notre Dame and Catholic New Iberia. It is hard to beat a team twice in a season. Just ask LSU when they had to play Alabama again in the 2011 National Championship or when Auburn had to play Georgia again this season in the SEC championship game. I think it will be a much closer game as the last time both of these teams played earlier in the year, it was a 37-0 win for Notre Dame. Catholic New Iberia will be motivated to win this football game and Diallo Landry will have a great game, but in the end, I think Coach Cook and company have been in this position before and they have what it takes to add another state championship for Coach Cook.”

 

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About Jace LeJeune

Jace is from Addis, LA and is attending Southeastern Louisiana University and majoring in Journalism. He is also a graduate from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge where he was the editor of the school newspaper the “Bearly Published.” While at CHS, Jace also announced their football, basketball, and baseball games for the Bruin Broadcast Network which is the Catholic High’s streaming website for their events. On weekends, Jace is the PA announcer for his middle school football games. At home, Jace enjoys time with his family and friends. Jace is also an avid football and drag racing fan.