NEW ORLEANS — The Notre Dame Pioneers have won four state football championships in the school’s history, but winning a fifth title won’t be the easiest task.
The 2012 Pios have already achieved most of their preseason goals for the season, such as winning the district championship, advancing in the playoffs and returning to the Superdome for the first time since 2009.
If the Pios are going to accomplish their final goal of winning a state championship, however, they will have to knock off the No. 1-seeded Parkview Baptist Eagles when the two teams square off at 4 p.m. today in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans for the Class 3A state finals.
“We know that it won’t be easy,” Pios coach Lewis Cook said. “Parkview Baptist is a very good team and we aren’t surprised that they are here. They have been scoring a lot points. They have scored points like crazy this season, so it’s going to be a good game.”
The Eagles, who are a perfect 12-0 on the year, have scored 567 points this season and are averaging slightly more than 47 points per game.
“We know that we are going to have to score points in this game,” Cook said. “We would be fools to think that we’re going to shut these guys out. They are playing football at a high level right now, so we’re going to have to control the football and not allow them to hit on any big plays.”
Offensively, the Eagles are led by quarterback Brennan Bozeman, running backs Hezekiah Randolph (rushing 138-1236, 21 TDs; receiving 11-301, 6 TDs) and Conner Hodgeson (113-712, 8 TDs) and receivers Tom Wing (22-361) and Austn Suits.
But everything starts and ends with Bozeman, who has completed 58-of-91 passes for 1,099 yards and 18 touchdowns, while rushing for 755 yards and nine touchdowns on 75 carries.
“It all starts with Bozeman,” Cook said. “He’s a player that is in his third year starting and he is very good. He is their guy. He is the player that makes them go. Bozeman is a really good runner and the best thing about him is that he knows when to run and when to give it up in the option.
“He also throws well enough in the passing game so that you can’t just ignore the threat of passing the ball. He’s a pretty complete player.”
But Eagles head coach Kenny Guillot doesn’t expect his offense to simply push the Pios’ defense around as he has great respect for linebacker Kipp Credeur and safety Gavin Bourgeois as playmakers.
“I think their defense is much improved over last year,” Guillot said. “They fly to the ball and they never give up on plays. That’s why it’s so important for the linemen to stay with their blocks.”
Although Notre Dame (12-1) isn’t as much of a high-scoring team with 388 points or just under 30 points a game, the Pios are still more than capable of moving the football behind running back Luke Broussard and fullback Austin Thibodeaux.
“They’ve got a big fullback who does a great job and they’ve got the same little running back who gave us fits last year,” Guillot said. “In addition to running the ball, one of the things they do extremely well is the play-action pass. They run and run at you and then they’ll hit for a big play with the play-action pass.”
If the Pios are going to be successful in winning their third state championship under Cook and prevent the Eagles from winning its fourth, they’ll have to capitalize on Parkview Baptist’s mistakes.
“We have to take advantage of the opportunities they provide for us or the opportunities that we provide for ourselves,” Cook said. “My biggest concern is being able to protect the football on offense and not breaking down on defense. If we continue to play the way we’ve been playing, then we’ll make a game of it.”
Follow assistant sports editor Eric Narcisse on Twitter @tdanarcisse.