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McGuire's late TD lifts Vandebilt to 20-15 win


Vandebilt Catholic quarterback Elijah McGuire (15) breaks right while getting help from teammate Aaron Smith (28). (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)


With its season on the line, Vandebilt Catholic's football team had to dig deep and produce big plays late in the fourth quarter of Friday's Class 4A regional round game against Franklin Parish.

And the Terriers' biggest play makers stepped up and answered the call when they needed it the most.

Trailing by a point at the start of the fourth quarter, Vandebilt standout senior quarterback Elijah McGuire directed the Terriers on a 20-play, 92-yard drive that took nearly 9 minutes off the clock, capping it with a 6-yard touchdown run on third down to give the Terriers a five-point lead with 2:01 left in the game.

The Terriers needed a defensive stand late to seal the win, and their defense provided it, getting a diving interception from junior safety Jordan Bergeron with 1:07 remaining to preserve a 20-15 victory over No. 9 Franklin Parish at Buddy Marcello Stadium.

No. 8 Vandebilt (11-1 overall) advances to the Class 4A quarterfinals to play No. 1 Neville in Monroe next week. Neville defeated Breaux Bridge, 41-21, on Friday night.

Vandebilt faced a 15-0 deficit in the first quarter, but it scored two second-quarter touchdowns and trailed 15-14 at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Terriers got the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter and didn't give it up until 2:01 left, just after McGuire pushed through several Patriots defenders to score the game-winning touchdown. Vandebilt's two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.

McGuire, who finished the game with 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns, said it was a hard-fought effort by the entire Terriers team to rally back and win.

"We got down and a lot of teams would have let up, but we didn't let up," said McGuire, who also completed 5-of-10 passing for 40 yards. "We came back, tried real hard and did what we had to do to get on top."

On the final scoring drive of the game, Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso said it was a combination of good blocking by the offensive line and McGuire using his God given talents to score the go-ahead touchdown.

"Eli is not the leading rusher in the state for nothing," Villavaso said. "He's a heck of a football player, and when the game was on the line, he stepped it up. I'm just proud of him and the offensive line for blocking for him in the second half. It was a team effort. Eli can't do it by himself. He got a lot of guys that are helping him. He's a great player, and when its time to make a play, you give it to your big time players. And he is one of those."

McGuire had 69 yards rushing on the final drive alone, using his quick feet to convert two key third downs and added an 8-yard run on fourth down to keep the drive alive for the Terriers (242 total yards, 202 rushing, 15 first downs). He left the game for two plays due to cramping, but sprinted back on the field as the crowd cheered to score the game-winning touchdown.

"I've got to tip my hats off the offensive line," McGuire said. "They did their job of great blocking. They got me in the end zone ... It was an amazing play."

Franklin Parish coach Barry Sebren said McGuire had a "Superman" type performance on Friday.

"McGuire just made too many plays," Sebren said. "We did make some plays against him, but on the big third and fourth downs, he was able to pull it out. That was the difference in the game, especially on the last drive. We thought we had him a little bit when he left the game, but then he comes back in. He must have went into the phone booth and changed into his other (Superman) outfit. He's an incredible player."

Franklin Parish, which is a run-based team out of the Wing-T, shocked the Terriers with its passing game on the first drive of the game, opening up with a 27-yard pass play from quarterback Steven Williams to Deon White.

After a couple of short runs, the Patriots (270 total yards, 185 rushing, 85 passing) went to the air again, when Williams faked a pitch, stepped back to pass and found a wide-open Marcus Bingham streaking to the end zone on a 33-yard touchdown strike.

Brandon Hillman added the two-point conversion run to make it 8-0 Patriots with 7:18 left in the first quarter.

The Patriots defense stuffed Vandebilt's second offensive drive in three plays, keeping the Terriers off the scoreboard.

After the defense did its job, Franklin Parish's offense struck again when Williams (eight carries, 87 yards) took a quarterback keeper 60-yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point gave the visitors a 15-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Vandebilt's offense started to find its groove, using runs from McGuire and running back Aaron Smith rack up yardage.

The Terriers went on to cap the 14-play, 65-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from Gage Corte.

Patrick Watson's extra point cut the Patriots lead to 15-7.

With the momentum on its side for the first time in the game, Vandebilt's defense forced the Patriots (9-3) to a three-and-out on their next drive, getting a big third down tackle from Tristan Guillory.

After a Franklin Parish personal foul penalty following the punt, Vandebilt set up its next drive at the Patriots' 47.

From there, McGuire went to work, using a 10-yard run and a 13-yard pass to Chase Hutchinson to set up first-and-10 at the Patriots' 15.

With 1:11 left in the second quarter, McGuire dodged several Franklin Parish defenders, hit the sideline and dashed into the end zone on a 15-yard run. Watson's extra point cut Franklin Parish's lead to 15-14 at halftime.

Franklin Parish had two possessions in Vandebilt territory during the third quarter, but the Terriers' defense stopped the threats. After its strong first quarter start, the Patriots never scored another point in the game.

"I thought we had the momentum early, but we didn't capitalize on it or put them away," Sebren said. "We had some stupid penalties that kept giving them good position and short drives, and they were able to wiggle their way back in it."

And now, the Terriers live to play another week of football. Right after the game, Villavaso said the Vandebilt coaching staff would spend the night watching game-film of Neville.

“It’s too late to be tired," Villavaso said. "We’ve got work to do (Friday night)."

Villavaso said it will be a tough task against Neville, but he believes the Terriers will give it their best shot.

"We've got a monumental challenge coming up, but our kids are resilient," Villavaso said. "They are going to be ready to go, and we're going to play as hard as we can play. I told the coaches before (Friday's) game that you're either good enough to win, or you're not. We're going to go up to Monroe, and we're going to play as hard as we can play. It's just fun for these kids to have this success."