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Terriers get stops in 38-6 win over Huntington

Vandebilt Catholic senior quarterback Elijah McGuire (right) prepares to make a run against Huntington's Jokobi Malone during Friday's Class 4A bi-district playoff game at Buddy Marcello Stadium in Houma. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff )

Vandebilt Catholic's defense had its backs against the wall on four separate occasions during Friday's Class 4A bi-district round playoff game against Huntington High of Shreveport.

Huntington, which featured one of the state's top regular season rushers in Damien Jiggetts, had four offensive possessions in Vandebilt territory.

But each time, the Terriers defense swarmed to the ball carrier and forced turnovers on downs, which eventually paved the way for a 38-6 Vandebilt victory over Huntington at Buddy Marcello Stadium in Houma.

Vandebilt, which is ranked No. 8 in the Class 4A playoffs, advances to the regional round next week, when it will host No. 9 Franklin Parish, a 19-14 winner over No. 24 Assumption.

Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso said the Terriers defense, which held No. 25 Huntington to 195 total yards (162 rushing, 33 passing), was key with their defensive stands.

"It was real big for us," Villavaso said. "We had some crucial penalties that helped them get down in our territory, but the times they got into the red zone, our defense really stood up and made some big plays for us. I was proud of those guys. Giving up six points to a good team with some talented players is really a great job by our defensive players."

Vandebilt's defense held Jiggetts, who had for 1,874 yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season, to only 39 yards on 21 carries. 

"We played our hearts out," Vandebilt defensive end/tight end Chase Hawthorne said. "We studied the film hard. We knew everything they were going to do with their formations. We were just ready for them. We held our ground and stopped them. They have good athletes, and we just accounted for them and made plays."

The Terriers (10-1 overall) used a couple of big plays from their special teams to set up the first score of the game.

Following a 48-yard return on the opening kickoff from Duncan Prentice, Vandebilt started its drive at the Huntington 47. Huntington's defense initially kept the Terriers out of the end zone, forcing fourth-and-7 from their 16.

Vandebilt lined up in its field goal formation, but changed plays when quarterback and holder Sam Lirette lined up under center. The Terriers snapped the ball, and Lirette found a wide-open Hawthorne in the middle of the field for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

Patrick Watson's extra point put the Terriers up 7-0 with 9:12 left in the game.

In the second quarter, Huntington (6-5) got its first break when Chance Chambers recovered a muffed punt from Jordan Bergeron, which set the visitors up near midfield.

Huntington moved the ball deep into Vandebilt territory, but on fourth-and-1 from the Terriers' 32, Jiggetts was stopped a yard short of the first down to turn it over on downs.

The Terriers made them pay for it on their next drive. Quarterback Eli McGuire, who attracted a lot of attention with his ability to break loose for big runs, scrambled to his right but threw it across the field to his left, finding a wide-open Holden Bourne, who took it all the way into the end zone on a 45-yard strike to put Vandebilt up 14-0 with 6:34 left before halftime.

Huntington had another deep drive into Vandebilt territory on its next possession, but once again, the Terriers defense came up with a stop on fourth down to end the drive. Huntington's offense also had a setback when starting quarterback Aldon Kelly left the game with a leg injury in the second quarter. 

Right before halftime, Vandebilt used runs of 14, 9, 13 and 16 from McGuire to set up a field goal opportunity right before half, and Watson drained a 37-yard field goal as time expired to make it 17-0.

Huntington's biggest offensive play of the game came on its first possession of the third quarter. On the second play of the drive, Chambers broke loose on a 79-yard touchdown run to make it 17-6 with 11:30 left. The extra point failed.

But it didn't take long for Vandebilt to respond. After a 48-yard kickoff return from Bergeron, McGuire found the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-6.

Vandebilt's offense continued to roll in the third quarter, going on a 7-play, 54-yard drive that ended when McGuire connected with Chase Hutchinson on a 11-yard touchdown pass to put it at 31-6.

McGuire, the state's top rusher with 2,094 yards in the regular season, finished his night with 214 rushing yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, but he also picked apart Huntington's defense with his passing ability.

"We ran the ball a lot (Friday)," said McGuire, who completed 4-of-7 passes for 78 yards and two scores. "They kept keying on our running game, so it opened up the passing lanes for our receivers to get some touchdowns."

Huntington coach Roderick Foppe said he knew his team faced a big challenge defending McGuire.

"We've played some really good players this year, but we have not seen a better player than McGuire," Foppe said. "I tip my hats off to Vandebilt. We don't have anything to be ashamed off. They beat a lot of people this year. They have a great team and great athletes. We just got beat by a better team."

The Terriers ended the game's scoring when Aaron Smith pounded his way up the middle of Huntington's defense on a 12-yard touchdown run with 10:02 left in the fourth quarter.

Despite a slow start to the game, Villavaso said he was pleased with Vandebilt's offensive production, which finished with 398 total yards (284 rushing, 105 passing, 15 first downs).

"Our offensive staff did a great job at halftime of making some adjustments," Villavaso said. "The things they adjusted to worked for us. I'm proud of our kids. I thought it was a great effort in all phases of the game."