When an injury created a chain reaction for Notre Dame High School’s defense, the Pioneers had little time to react.
Middle linebacker Connor Goss went down with a torn thumb ligament in Week 6. Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook and the Pioneers responded with a series of five moves. Zach Miller moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker to take Goss’ spot. Matt Venable switched from strong safety to outside linebacker, Austin Bordelon moved to strong safety, Gavin Bourgeois took over at free safety, and Dustin Reiners stepped in to handle Goss’ kicking duties.
“We lost Connor Goss in Week 6 ... he still leads our team in tackles,” Cook said. “He wanted to cast it up and go (keep playing).”
The Pioneers (6-3 and ranked No. 5 in Class 3A) opted for a different plan for Goss: a surgical procedure and recovery.
The Notre Dame defense limited Crowley to six points last week in a 21-6 victory. Crowley running back Davante Bourque, an LSU commitment, managed 96 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
“Davante is a natural (running) back,” Cook said. “ He has size, speed, vision and patience. We were able to get someone in front of him and rally guys to the ball and limit his space.”
Offensively, Pioneers running back Nick Gossen has rebounded from an ankle injury he suffered in a win over Teurlings Catholic. Gossen has 683 yards and five touchdowns for a Notre Dame squad that is 4-0 in District 4-3A and will finish the regular season with a Friday contest at home against South Beauregard (3-6, 1-3).
“Nick Gossen is a downhill-type runner,” Cook said. “He has a lean build, but he’s heavier than he looks. He is fearless. He has developed for us to get tough yards inside. He’s attacking the line. The hole might not be there long, but he’s taking the hole and getting through it before it closes up.”
That general attitude has been a necessity, given the injuries and the talent level of opposing running backs in 4-3A.
“We talked about it at our coaches meeting,” Cook said. “When we played Westlake, we dealt with (running back) Devin Eaglin, and then Davante Bourque at Crowley. It’s definitely a plus for us to see those kids (as opponents) if we can get in the playoffs and sustain ourselves.”
Battle for District 5-3A
Ball control will be a key element when Eunice (8-0, 4-0) visits Church Point (7-2, 3-1) Friday night.
A win by Church Point could force a three-way tie for the 5-3A title.
Livonia (8-1, 3-1) enters its Friday game against Port Barre with the same record as Church Point.
“Eunice is a Wing-T team that takes care of the ball, and they want to be ball control,” Church Point coach J.C. Arceneaux said. “They have dabbled with the shotgun because they have such a good quarterback.”
Eunice quarterback Trenon Trosclair has passed for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has accounted for 587 rushing yards on 97 carries with eight scores as a runner.
“He (Trosclair) can beat you by himself,” Arceneaux said. “We have to address it and keep him from being a one-man show.”
Church Point’s Jacob Boone has contributed to the Bears’ ground attack by putting up 826 rushing yards and 14 TDs.
“We took a step back last week and didn’t tackle very well, but we are definitely happy with where we are right now defensively,” Arceneaux said.
“We have to control the football. They (the Bobcats) are more explosive than we are. We need to control them.”