CROWLEY — Notre Dame is almost always good.
Some years, it’s obvious that Pioneers coach Lewis Cook is going to field a contender.
Some years, it seems like a down year.
In the end, Notre Dame is almost always good and almost always a contender.
In 2015, the Pios drop from Class 3A to 2A and play in a tough district with Opelousas Catholic and Catholic-New Iberia. Buzz around the program is that 2A will be a breeze for the Pios, but Cook said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Anybody who thinks that is either arrogant or they haven’t taken time to see who the teams are that we’d have to go through,” he said. “St. Charles dropped down. Calvary Baptist is always sitting there, and Catholic of New Iberia — in our district — almost beat them. You also got Ouachita Christian moving up (from 1A). As early as the second round, you can face a team that can take you out.”
Cook said his team’s preseason practice has been “real good,” and he likes where his players are heading into the season. The Pios return 28 seniors, and Cook said he is enjoying working with the experienced group.
“When you have a mature group, they progress a little bit faster,” he said. “The first day, I recall going through some of the plays and thinking about how nice it was that we didn’t have to stop every play and go through every little detail with them. We have experienced guys who have retained a little bit, and it’s always nice to have guys who have done it before.”
Despite returning so much leadership, the Pios will replace three-year starting quarterback Brad Stoma from last year’s team. That task falls on the shoulders of Joe Faulk, a senior who saw limited action at QB and was mostly featured as a tailback.
“For the last two years, Joe has carried the football,” Cook said. “That in itself will lead us to utilize him a little more in the running game. Brad made some really big runs for us, and he was a good runner, but he was so slenderly built and such a valuable weapon for us, I didn’t want to run him unless I have to.
“Joe also doesn’t have that experience. For us to evaluate where we are in the quarterback position, we just need him to play. He needs to get some snaps.”
Cook said he will have plays drawn up for sophomore Brian Thevis, and Thevis may see significant action under center in some games.
The move to 2A also brings more to the Pios’ rivalry with Catholic-New Iberia. The Pios and Panthers meet annually in nondistrict play, but Cook said this year’s game will have extra flavor.
“It’s our Week 10 game,” Cook said. “It will be an exciting way to finish (the regular season). Their program is very good, and they beat the heck out of us last year. They’re coming to Crowley this year, and they’re a team that has gone to the Dome. There will be a lot of excitement, and it makes it a great way to finish the regular season.”
Cook was hesitant to say his senior-laden team was a special one in the making — but, as he admitted, he’s had trouble picking that in the past.
“The only one time since I’ve been at Notre Dame was that ’09 team after we went to the Dome in ’08,” Cook said. “We went wire to wire with the No. 1. That was the only one I felt was special and ended up being special. The rest just kind of happened.
“I had a couple teams I thought could do it and didn’t. I’ve had teams that I thought didn’t have a chance, and we got there. If some things fall into place, you never know.”
Catholic-New Iberia Panthers
Coach: Brent Indest
2014: 12-1, 5-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Calvary Baptist in Division III select title game)
Looking back: The Panthers, led by Jason Pellerin, came up a win short of a state championship.
Moving forward: Like its rival Loreauville, Catholic will be filling big shoes with the absence of Pellerin, who’s now at Ole Miss.
Ask The Advocate: The Panthers will take a small step back but will still probably win the district.
Sept. 3 at Vermilion Catholic
Sept. 11 at Erath
Sept. 18 Patterson
Sept. 25 at West St. Mary#
Oct. 2 Delcambre#
Oct. 8 at Loreauville#
Oct. 16 at Jeanerette#
Oct. 23 Opelousas Catholic#
Oct. 30 Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Nov. 6 at Notre Dame#
Coach: Marc Broussard
2014: 4-7, 2-3
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Vinton in first round)
Looking back: A promising start to the season for Delcambre ended with three consecutive losses.
Moving forward: Delcambre isn’t returning much from last year’s squad, which was short on depth.
Ask The Advocate: Delcambre’s schedule is tough, and the wins will be scarce.
Sept. 4 Erath
Sept. 11 at Hanson Memorial
Sept. 17 Ascension Episcopal
Sept. 24 at Loreauville#
Oct. 2 at Catholic-New Iberia#
Oct. 9 Jeanerette#
Oct. 16 at Opelousas Catholic#
Oct. 23 Notre Dame#
Oct. 30 West St. Mary#
Nov. 6 at Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Coach: Darrell Caesar
2014: 2-8, 0-5
Looking back: Jeanerette struggled to put points on the board last year, scoring eight or fewer in five games.
Moving forward: The Tigers are looking to break into the win column in district play.
Ask The Advocate: Adding Notre Dame to a district schedule that was already tough will prove to be overwhelming.
Sept. 5 at St. Martinville
Sept. 10 Highland Baptist
Sept. 18 at Franklin
Sept. 25 at Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Oct. 2 West St. Mary#
Oct. 9 at Delcambre#
Oct. 16 Catholic-New Iberia#
Oct. 23 at Loreauville#
Oct. 30 Notre Dame#
Nov. 6 at Opelousas Catholic#
Coach: Trent Delahoussaye
2014: 7-5, 3-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Loreauville in second round)
Looking back: Loreauville was a powerhouse last year behind elite athlete Raymond Bonnette.
Moving forward: With Bonnette gone, Delahoussaye will be looking to fill the opening at quarterback.
Ask The Advocate: Despite the loss of Bonette, Loreauville will be in the thick of the district race.
Sept. 4 Franklin
Sept. 11 at Lafayette Christian
Sept. 18 Sophie B. Wright
Sept. 24 Delcambre#
Oct. 2 Notre Dame#
Oct. 8 at Catholic-New Iberia#
Oct. 16 at Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Oct. 23 Jeanerette#
Oct. 30 at Opelousas Catholic#
Nov. 6 West St. Mary#
Notre Dame Pioneers
Coach: Lewis Cook
2014: 10-4, 5-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to University in Division II select semifinals)
Looking back: Notre Dame had another undefeated district year and a deep run into the playoffs.
Moving forward: The Pios drop down to Class 2A, but the competition in this district is just as stiff.
Ask The Advocate: Popular opinion sees the drop as a good thing for Notre Dame, but being in a district with Loreauville and Catholic-New Iberia should cause concern.
Sept. 4 LaGrange
Sept. 11 at Breaux Bridge
Sept. 18 Teurlings Catholic
Sept. 25 Opelousas Catholic#
Oct. 2 at Loreauville#
Oct. 9 at Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Oct. 15 West St. Mary#
Oct. 23 at Delcambre#
Oct. 30 at Jeanerette#
Nov. 6 Catholic-New Iberia#
Opelousas Catholic Vikings
Coach: Dane Charpentier
2014: 10-2, 4-1
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Newman in Division III select quarterfinals)
Looking back: OC experienced one of its most successful seasons under first-year coach Charpentier.
Moving forward: The Vikings return a lot of key starters from last year.
Ask The Advocate: Don’t sleep on OC. This district is top-heavy, and the Vikings will be in the hunt.
Sept. 4 Port Barre
Sept. 11 Central Catholic
Sept. 18 at St. Edmund
Sept. 25 at Notre Dame#
Oct. 1 Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Oct. 8 at West St. Mary#
Oct. 16 Delcambre#
Oct. 23 at Catholic-New Iberia#
Oct. 30 Loreauville#
Nov. 6 Jeanerette#
Sacred Heart-Ville Platte Trojans
Coach: Gary Adkins
2014: 5-5, 2-2
Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost to Ouachita Christian in Division IV select second round)
Looking back: Sacred Heart began to show signs it could score points late in the season; it hung 51 on Catholic-Pointe Coupee.
Moving forward: Adkins will try get over the .500 hump and to a winning season.
Ask The Advocate: The Trojans could play spoiler against some heavy hitters.
Sept. 4 at Iota
Sept. 11 Port Barre
Sept. 17 at Houma Christian
Sept. 25 Jeanerette#
Oct. 1 at Opelousas Catholic#
Oct. 9 Notre Dame#
Oct. 16 Loreauville#
Oct. 22 at West St. Mary#
Oct. 30 at Catholic-New Iberia#
Nov. 6 Delcambre#
West St. Mary Wolfpack
Coach: Andre Lockley
2014: 0-10, 0-5
Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in 2A first round)
Looking back: The Wolfpack couldn’t find much to brag about last season.
Moving forward: With not a whole lot different from last season, West St. Mary is in one of the toughest districts in the state.
Ask The Advocate: It’ll be another long year for the Wolfpack faithful.
Sept. 4 at Beau Chene
Sept. 10 Northwest
Sept. 18 Highland Baptist
Sept. 25 Catholic-New Iberia#
Oct. 2 at Jeanerette#
Oct. 8 Opelousas Catholic#
Oct. 15 at Notre Dame#
Oct. 22 Sacred Heart-Ville Platte#
Oct. 30 at Delcambre#
Nov. 6 at Loreauville#
# — district game