KAPLAN The Notre Dame Pioneers used some big offensive plays, along with a stingy defense, to defeat the Kaplan Pirates 35-6 in a non-district matchup on Friday night in Kaplan.
No. 6-ranked Notre Dame scored the last 28 points of the game, including a crucial touchdown with under a minute to go until halftime to break open a one-score game and secure its third straight win.
"It's so difficult to play them (Kaplan) because they know us so well," said Notre Dame head coach Lewis Cook. "Tank (Kaplan head coach Stephen Lotief) and I coached together. Jimmy Mac (Jimmy McCleary) and Tank are next-door neighbors. Fred Menard, who is on their staff now, we were together for 11 years. Nick Benoit, who was a receiver for us, he's on their staff now. So, it's almost like homecoming week when we play.
"We did a good job of being patient," Cook said. "They do such a good job of controlling the tempo, and they got us a couple of times, but once we settled in we were able to make a couple of plays."
"We're getting better," Lotief said. "You have to play perfect, especially against those guys (Notre Dame), and we're not there yet."
Notre Dame got on the scoreboard first after recovering a fumble at the Kaplan 21, before Dominic Thibodeaux scored on a 16-yard touchdown run three plays later, which gave them a 7-0 lead at the 6:07 mark of the first quarter.
Kaplan scored its only points of the game at the 10:14 mark of the second quarter, in typical Pirate fashion, going on a 15-play, 75-yard drive, which culminated with a short 2-yard touchdown run by Caden Campisi, to trim the deficit to 7-6.
"They ran a couple of things at us on that drive that we hadn't seen on film, including an option play" Cook said. "It's really hard to adjust to a Wing-T, but our guys did a good job after that."
After a long 74-yard touchdown run by Thibodeaux, which gave Notre Dame a 14-6 lead, the Pioneers were able to score on a 26-yard touchdown run by quarterback Parker Seilhan. He also completed a 48-yard pass on a third-and-long play earlier in the drive to give them a 21-6 lead going into halftime.
"It's a one-possession game at that point, so I knew that drive was going to be big," Cook said. "We had a big third-down conversion and then finished it off with a touchdown. I think that gave us a lot of momentum and played a huge part in the outcome of the game."
In the second half, Notre Dame got a third touchdown run from Thibodeaux in the third quarter - this one from 7 yards out - before Seilhan ran in his second score of the game in the fourth quarter, this one from 15 yards away, to make it 28 unanswered points, which extended their advantage to 35-6.
That was all Notre Dame would need, as they kept Kaplan off the scoreboard in the second half, walking away with the 29-point triumph.
Thibodeaux led the way for the Pioneers, eclipsing 130 yards, to go along with three touchdowns, while Hayes Abshire rushed for over 70 yards in a losing cause for the Pirates.
With the victory, Notre Dame improved to 3-0, while Kaplan dropped to 0-2.
"I really like the group I have," Cook said. "We're talented, but we also have great effort and we have good team chemistry, so it's a fun group to be around."
"We're still playing young," Lotief said. "Our older kids are playing young, and that's frustrating, but as long as we keep getting better we'll be okay.
"We just have to find a way to not give up the big plays and limit our mistakes, Hopefully, we can do that next week."