For the second consecutive week, the Catholic High of New Iberia Panthers will face an opponent known for having a stout defense.
But after lighting up Church Point’s defense as part of a 44-0 win, head coach Keith Menard and his Panthers are expecting a much different game this week when they travel to face the Notre Dame Pioneers today at 7 p.m. in non-district action.
“Notre Dame is Notre team,” Menard said. “They are a typical Notre Dame team. What I mean by that is that they are well-coached, play hard, are going to play solid defense and will give you a lot of different looks on defense.”
The Panthers, who are 3-1 on the year and have won three games in a row since losing their season opener, are expected to be quite the test for the Pioneers’ defense as a result of their high-powered offense led by quarterback Joe Lissard, receiver Gabe Fuselier and tight end Jason Pellerin.
“Explosive,” said Pioneers defensive coordinator Jimmy McCleary about the Panthers’ offense. “It all starts with the quarterback Lissard’s ability to see the field. The thing’s he sees despite being pressured is very impressive. Lissard is a special talent and I’ve seen him make some throws that were just unbelievable.”
According to McCleary, what makes Lissard so talented is his willingness to trust his offensive line.
“His ability to trust his front and remain locked in on doing the things he needs to do is amazing,” he said. “He is willing to take the hit in order to buy his receiver another second to separate from a defender. Lissard has a knack for feeling pressure and knowing when to get rid of the ball. He just really does a great job.”
McCleary says he sees a lot of similarities in the combination of Lissard and Fuselier to what he was around during his time at UL when Jake Delhomme and Brandon Stokley were there.
“Lissard and Fuselier are great complements to one another,” McCleary said. “Their knack for being able to convert a rout and to still be on the same page is very comparable to Jake and Brandon. They have a great feel for each other and Fuselier does a great job of finding those holes.”
When asked the key to stopping or at least slowing down the Panthers’ offensive attack, McCleary stated adamantly “making them one dimensional.”
“I know they don’t run the football a lot, but it is still important to make a team one-dimensional,” McCleary said. “In the passing game, we have to do a good job of playing coverage. We are so young defensively and we are still learning. This will be a good test for us.”
Because of the Pioneers’ ability to run the football with Austin Thibodaux and Luke Broussard, Menard considers it essential for the Panthers to move the chains and take advantage of their opportunities.
“Notre Dame wants to control the clock,” Menard said. “They want to limit your possessions, while also lulling you to sleep. The moment they think you’re sleep that’s when they try to hit the deep pass on you. It seems to work for them, so we have to make sure we make the most of our possessions and get them off the field on third downs.”
All-in-all, both coaches agree the game will come down to who is able to protect the football, force turnovers and come away with some big plays.
“You have to continue to score points against a team like Notre Dame, because you know they aren’t going to quit,” Menard said. “They’ve been down several times this year and have come back to win or make it close. It’s going to be a great game.”
Follow assistant sports editor Eric Narcisse on Twitter @tdanarcisse.