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New stars looking to emerge for Terriers

Vandebilt Catholic coach Brad Villavaso watch the Terriers warm up prior to Friday's scrimmage against H.L. Bourgeois. (Photo by Jim Cenac/Correspondent)

--Eighth in a 13-part series.

Area football fans have become accustomed to seeing players like quarterback Elijah McGuire and running back Aaron Smith lead Vandebilt Catholic's offense over the last few seasons.

But those players, along with 18 other seniors who contributed to the Terriers' 11-2 record last year, are gone.

Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso said there will be some new faces stepping up to fill some big shoes this year, but he is confident they will adjust and become key contributors.

"Nobody is worrying about what we did last year because this is a new football season," Villavaso said. "We have new guys. You can't live in the past, and you can't live in the future. Right now, we've got some good football players and some guys who will give it all they got to be successful. We won 11 games last year, and this team that we're going to put on the field in the fall, they are going to believe we can win more games than that. They are going to play like that. The coaches are going to coach like that, and hopefully we'll accomplish all the goals that we've set for ourselves."

The Terriers, which captured the District 8-4A title and won two playoff games last season, ended their spring football practices with a scrimmage against H.L. Bourgeois on May 18.

Villavaso said it was a productive spring, as Vandebilt had 80 players out for practice.

"We did come out of spring with a good idea on what our depth chart looks like and what we are going into the fall with," Villavaso said. "I thought the kids played hard. I thought they gave us a great effort."

One of the players who is emerging as a leader is junior-to-be quarterback Bailey Pere, who is replacing Louisiana-Lafayette signee McGuire as the top weapon in the Terriers' offense.

Pere said he knows replacing a player like McGuire, who led the state in rushing with more than 2,600 yards and 31 touchdowns last season, is a big task, but he believes that the Terriers offense will be just as efficient this fall.

"Spring was good. We got some basic stuff in with our offense," Pere said. "We're just going to build on that going into the fall. We're confident we're going to have a good team."

Villavaso said he has encouraged Pere to play his best and not try to duplicate the things McGuire did last year.

"We're not expecting him to take the ball down the field like Eli," Villavaso said. "Bailey knows his limitations and he knows what he is good at. Elijah is a lot better at Bailey at a lot of things, and Bailey is a lot better than Elijah at a lot of things. Our offense has to be a game-controlled offense. Bailey manages the offense well, and he can throw the ball well. We're looking forward to that."

Some other key players on Vandebilt's offense is senior-to-be offensive tackle Tyler Bourque (All-State selection), tight end Chase Hawthorne and running backs Gage Corte, Seth Popay and Justen Harris.

Defensively, the Terriers return some big names such as linebacker Dylan Ward and safety Jordan Bergeron.

Bergeron said Vandebilt was able to get a lot of positive work in and focus on the fundamentals this spring.

"I think we had a good spring. We've worked hard," Bergeron said. "We got to see what all we've got this year. We've got a lot of younger guys that are stepping up. Everybody on this team is coming together and we're working hard. We're ready."

Villavaso said he was relieved that the Terriers didn't suffer any injuries this spring, which he thinks will be the perfect way to enter summer workouts.

"It gives us an opportunity to take our whole football team into the summer weight workouts and speed training and conditioning," Villavaso said. "We're looking forward to getting our team a little faster and stronger, and hopefully move forward into the fall ready to go with guys who can play their position a lot better because of the summer weight workouts. We're really looking forward to the season. We have a lot of work between now and then."

Coming Wednesday: Central Lafourche.