EUNICE — Notre Dame’s winning formula hasn’t changed in years.
It works pretty simply: dominate with defense and wear down the opponent on offense.
Longtime coach Lewis Cook isn’t going to change a formula that has won so many games and state titles through the years.
So it came as no surprise Friday night when the Pioneers rode that defense to a convincing 42-14 victory over Eunice, the No. 9-ranked team in Class 4A.
Notre Dame (7-1) forced five Eunice turnovers, racing out to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter before the Bobcats (4-2) could even blink.
By the time Eunice gained its bearings and adjusted, the Pios had put enough space between the two teams so that it didn’t matter. The early onslaught by Notre Dame forced Eunice out of its bread-and-butter Wing-T scheme into something a little more unfamiliar, a pass-based attack.
“Our defense really made it tough on them,” Cook said. “They really had a tough time getting the run game going and we forced them to take shots and launch it a bunch.”
Two of those forced fumbles came on back-to-back Eunice possessions in the first quarter and allowed Notre Dame to jump out to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first behind touchdown runs by Parker Seilhan and Dom Thibodeaux and a 43-yard touchdown pass from Seilhan to Christian McNees.
That pass play, part of a 140-yard night by Seilhan, was a freshly installed play.
“It was a trail route by McNees,” Cook said. “(Luke) Yuhasz ran a post, (Eunice) jumped that and Parker put the pass on the money.”
The scoreline tells a cruel story for the Bobcats, who outside of a disastrous quarter-and-a-half competed well with Notre Dame.
“I knew we’d have trouble moving the ball (against their defense),” Eunice coach Andre Vige said. “It being 21-0 before we even blinked really put us in a bind.”
Notre Dame never felt fully comfortable until the final quarter, when the starters finally left the game. It was only the third time this season in which Notre Dame’s starters had played into the fourth quarter.
For both sides, the agreement was that a playoff-lite game worked wonders for each team as pairings are released this weekend.
“We really needed a game like this where we had to scratch, fight, run hard, execute and make plays on defense,” Cook said. “I was thankful we were able to get this game and play a good team like Eunice on the road. Hopefully it will give us some momentum heading into the playoffs.”
For Vige and Eunice, the loss may possess a silver lining after all.
“It was a good challenge and a good test,” Vige said. “The team’s spirit was upbeat after the game. I preached to them that two years ago we lost to Iota in week 10. Next week is a new season. We made a good run in 2018 and we’ll try to carry that (mindset) into Sunday when we find out our opponent in the pairings.”