CROWLEY — With a little more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, the visiting Catholic-New Iberia Panthers had as many touchdowns as Notre Dame had offensive plays.
It didn’t get much better as the game went on, as Catholic-New Iberia (5-0) rolled up 569 yards of offense in a 56-28 blowout of the Pioneers (3-2).
The game was billed as a battle between Catholic’s high-octane offense and Notre Dame’s stout defense, but by the time the first quarter was over the Panthers had 272 yards of total offense and had built up a 28-0 lead.
The Panthers dynamic combination of quarterback Jason Pellerin and running back Seth Pierre was too much for the Pioneers to handle. The two combined for 338 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. Pellerin also threw for nearly 100 yards and a score.
“My job is to create as many different ways for No. 7 (Pellerin) to hurt you, because he’s a special guy,” said Catholic coach Brent Indest.
Pierre took two long runs to the house, but no play was bigger than Pellerin’s 94-yard keeper to cap off the Panthers’ huge first quarter. The touchdown came on a play Indest and the Panthers had been saving, a designed read-option Indest called “midline,” and Pellerin’s eyes lit up when he turned the corner and saw nothing but grass in front of him.
“In my mind I knew I had it, but I couldn’t flaunt it or anything because I saw a guy coming,” Pellerin said.
Five Pioneer players, including starting quarterback, Brad Stoma, were suspended in the days leading up to kickoff. Perhaps sensing that they could take control of the game early, the ultra-aggressive Panthers continued rolling the dice and kept coming up a winner.
Indest called a reverse on the first play of the Panthers second drive to junior Jeremy Touchet, who broke a couple tackles on his way to a 42-yard touchdown to open up the scoring effort. That’s where things got out of hand for the Pioneers.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers caught the Pios napping by recovering a pooch kick at the Notre Dame 35-yard-line. Pellerin found fellow senior Andre Bellefontaine for a 35-yard touchdown on the next play.
“Our kickoff coverage hasn’t been stellar, so a lot of times we figured it was worth the risk to kick it right there at the 40-yard line and take a chance,” Indest said. “That was the difference early. Taking them out of their comfort zone and jumping on it early.”
But Notre Dame hadn’t learned its lesson. The Panthers saw the Pios lined up the same way on the ensuing kickoff, and they recovered another pooch kick. That drive resulted in a 2-yard Pellerin touchdown run to give the Panthers a 21-0 lead.
Pellerin’s 94-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 28-point lead late in the first quarter.
“That was the one that broke them,” Indest said.
The Panthers eased off the gas pedal after building up a 42-14 halftime lead, but still managed to score a pair of touchdowns on a pick-six and a 38-yard touchdown run by Pierre.
The night wasn’t a complete wash for the Pioneers, who saw a productive night from senior running back Damon Comeaux. Comeaux entered the game in the second quarter after starter Lance Bertrand was injured on a 28-yard run.
Comeaux scored on a 21-yard touchdown the play after Bertrand had to be helped off the field, and finished the night with 149 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.