A season-long recipe was good enough to send Notre Dame to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in three years.
The No. 3 Pioneers grinded out 303 yards rushing and their defense was stout again in a 33-0 victory Friday over No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas in a Division III semifinal at Southeastern Louisiana’s Strawberry Stadium.
Notre Dame (13-0) will face No. 1 Riverside Academy (11-1) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in the Division III state championship game.
The Pios are in pursuit of the school’s fifth state championship and second under coach Lewis Cook, who directed the team to a Class 3A title over Parkview Baptist in 2009.
“My wife (Faye) asked me if it didn’t seem there was an overabundance of jubilation,” Cook said. “They thought they could win the game. Against Calvary (28-7 quarterfinal win), there was a lot of doubt in their mind going into the game, and they played about as good as they could play.”
For the second straight playoff game senior Hayden Bourgeois scored three rushing touchdowns for a 19-0 third-quarter lead, which was more than enough for a Notre Dame defense that recorded its eighth shutout of the season.
STA (12-1) reached Notre Dame’s 5-yard line after an 83-yard dump-off pass where Bourgeois made a touchdown-saving tackle. The Pios went on to hold the Falcons out of the end zone on four straight plays.
“I was on the bench talking with the offense on that play,” Cook said. “I looked back and saw this guy running in the middle of the field. It was 6-0 at the time, and Bourgeois passed up one of our guys giving chase and dove and got the guy.”
Bourgeois scored on runs of 5, 2 and 3 yards, with the final score capping a drive that took eight plays to cover 60 yards at the 7:49 mark of the third quarter.
Notre Dame, which finished with 396 yards on 52 plays, added touchdowns from quarterback Joe Faulk, who threw an 8-yard scoring strike to Ethan Smith at the five-minute mark of the third quarter, and Lance Bertrand on a 19-yard TD run in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Gabe Petry led the Pios with nine carries for 97 yards, while Bertrand rushed 11 times for 73 yards and Sam Hoffpauir had 62 yards on 3 attempts.
Faulk completed 5 of 9 passes for 93 yards.
Bourgeois topped Notre Dame’s defensive effort with 11 tackles followed by Paul Guidry with nine.
The Pios, who finished with three sacks, 10 tackles for losses and 17 quarterback hurries, limited STA quarterback Cameron Dantzler to 36 yards on 13 carries. The Mississippi State commitment completed 5 of 18 passes for 140 yards but was intercepted three times by Jack Veillon, Pete Brown and Connor Fay.
“We didn’t play nearly as clean against St. Thomas Aquinas as we did against Calvary,” Cook said. “We’re on this journey to accomplish this mission. This was another step.”