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Vandebilt, Franklin Parish prepare for playoff clash

Vandebilt Catholic quarterback Elijah McGuire (15) will lead the Terriers into Friday's Class 4A regional game against Franklin Parish in Houma. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)

As a high school coach for 14 years, Vandebilt Catholic coach Brad Villavaso has been in his share of playoff battles.

If there is anything he has learned, it is the farther you go into the postseason, the tougher it gets.

Villavaso's Terriers face that challenge this week.

No. 8 Vandebilt Catholic will host No. 9 Franklin Parish in the Class 4A regional round playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday in Buddy Marcello Stadium.

After picking up a 38-6 win over No. 25 Huntington in its Class 4A bi-district round game last week, Villavaso said he is expecting a more competitive task against Franklin Parish, which defeated No. 24 Assumption, 19-14, to advance to the second round.

"There are no bad football teams that win state championships," Villavaso said. "Each round gets a little bit more difficult. You just hope you can play some good football, eliminate mistakes and really play hard. I think our kids are ready for that."

Vandebilt (10-1 overall) will face a Franklin Parish team that finished 9-2 overall and 3-1 as runner-up in District 2-4A. The Patriots key wins during the regular season were over Bastrop (23-20), Wossman (20-12) and Rayville (42-14), while their only losses were to two defending state champions and top-playoff seeds this year in Class 4A Neville (28-0) and Class 1A Ouachita Christian (28-22).

"Those guys are hungry," Villavaso said. "They've been getting better each year. Their coaches have done an tremendous job with them. Franklin Parish plays in a big-time district. They've got a lot of good football going on up there. They are going to bring down a great team. We're going to have a big challenge on our hands, and hopefully we can play well."

Franklin Parish coach Barry Sebren, who is a former assistant coach at St. James High under Rick Gaille, said the Patriots must also be prepared to take on Vandebilt, which has won 10 straight games since losing its season opener to E.D. White Catholic. Franklin Parish High is located in Winnsboro.

"We're excited about this opportunity," Sebren said. "We're playing a good opponent. It's going to be tough for us. We've got a long trip. We've got to overcome some obstacles and distractions, but I think it will be a good game."

Friday's game will be a showdown between Vandebilt's veer-based offense and Franklin Parish's Wing-T style.

Both teams have complied big numbers on the ground this season. Vandebilt has averaged 40.4 points per game and over 300 rushing yards per game this season, while Franklin Parish has recorded 341.7 yards per game (312 rushing average, 28 yards passing average).

"I think the teams are evenly matched," Sebren said. "It's a good contrasting style between the two teams. I really expect it to be a battle."

Sebren also said he has heard a lot about Vandebilt senior quarterback Elijah McGuire, who was the state's top rusher during the regular season with 2,094 yards and 26 touchdowns. McGuire is coming off an impressive performance against Huntington, where he had 214 rushing yards on 21 carries and a touchdown and completed 4-of-7 passes for 78 yards and two scores.

"Statistically, he speaks for himself," Sebren said. "He's able to make plays. I don't know if anybody has stopped him this year. We're going to have to contain him to have a chance to win the game. If he runs all over us, it's going to be a long night."

McGuire said Vandebilt has prepared all week for Friday's game, and the team is determined to defend its home turf.

"Having another home game, I think we're going to be ready," McGuire said. "Coach V and the rest of the coaching staff is going to have a good game plan for these guys who are coming into our house. I think the best part about playing at home is our fans. Our fans have every part in the game. They will not doubt us for no reason at all. They are behind us 100 percent." Villavaso said Franklin Parish also has a few standout athletes as well.

The Patriots, who Villavaso said run an offense similar to South Terrebonne, are led by senior running back Deon White (100 carries for 908 yards, 10 TDs), junior running back Marcus Bingham (101 carries, 963 yards, eight TDs), senior quarterback Steve Williams (509 yards, five TDs passing; 505 yards, four TDs rushing) and senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Smith (73 tackles, six sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and blocked kick and a touchdown).

"It's hard to hold Assumption to 14 points like they did," Villavaso said. "They've got some play makers. They will keep the ball away from you. They've had some long sustained drives, and they'll keep your offense off the field. For us to be successful, we've got to have our offense on the field, so it's a big challenge for our defense to try to eliminate those long drives. We want to make them earn their points."

Since he believes both teams are evenly-matched, Sebren said he expects a four-quarter game that could go to the wire.

"We know we have an opportunity to win the game," Sebren said. "It's going to be an interesting ball game, and it's probably going to come down to one or two big plays. Our kids are excited about the game. I'm sure Vandebilt's kids are excited. This is what high school football is all about. Taking two teams from two different areas and putting them out there to play."


Friday's game can be heard on the radio at 106.3-FM, 1490-AM and 105.9-FM and at ... The winner of the Vandebilt/Franklin Parish game will face the winner of the No. 1 Neville/No. 17 Breaux Bridge game next week in the Class 4A quarterfinals ... The Terriers haven't advanced to the quarterfinal round since the 2008 season.