Photos: Acadiana football teams faced off Friday night _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye-- Notre Dame's defense converge on a Breaux Bridge running back in a game earlier this month.

Before this season, conversations about the Notre Dame Pioneers focused mainly on who had graduated.

Because coach Lewis Cook would be without three-year starting quarterback Brad Stoma, there was talk of Notre Dame possibly having a down year despite a move to 2A.

Fast forward to now and the Pios are the hottest team in Acadiana, off to a 4-0 start with wins over Teurlings, Breaux Bridge and Opelousas Catholic. Cook said the main reason for the Pios’ early season success has been the defense.

“Our defense is still pretty dominant,” Cook said. “They aren’t giving up much. When you play ‘D’ like that, it allows you to make a mistake here or there on offense and still come out of it OK.”

The Pios returned 28 seniors this season and the defense is full of them. Jack Veillion and Michael Bourgeois lead a fierce secondary unit that Cook said is playing about as well as a secondary has for Notre Dame in a long time.

“There’s good chemistry back there, and they’re going after the receivers,” Cook said. “It’s nice to see that if (the other team) does get a catch, we’re there to tackle them.”

Bourgeois has solidified himself as the leader in the secondary after back-to-back stellar weeks. Against Opelousas Catholic — a 40-7 Notre Dame win that saw the defense hold the Vikings to just 52 yards — Bourgeois’ 33-yard interception return for a touchdown helped open up the Pios’ first-half lead.

“Against OC, (Bourgeois) got the interception return and against Teurlings, he knocked seven balls down,” Cook said. “You don’t see that very often. The secondary has been playing very well. We are getting pressure up front, but they’re breaking on the ball really well.”

The Pios defense shut Breaux Bridge down, holding them to only one first down. They stymied Teurlings quarterback Cole Kelley. He completed 13 of 37 passes for 153 yards. Cook said the defense has been tested in a lot of different ways and has answered every challenge.

“We had 37 passes thrown at us against Teurlings,” Cook said. “Week before, Breaux Bridge threw it. LaGrange kept running at us. OC we saw a little running and passing. We have seen a lot of different things and this defense is playing as well as we have in a long time.”