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Duo passing test for Thibodaux Tigers

Senior Donta Johnson (4) and junior Peyton Bonvillain (12) will be splitting time as the starting quarterback for the Thibodaux Tigers this season. (Photo by Chris Singleton/Staff)

Teams would like to have the problem the Thibodaux Tigers are faced with this season.

The Tigers enter each game having to pick a starting quarterback.

Picking a starting quarterback is not a bad thing, especially when you have two capable starters like the Tigers have in senior Donta Johnson and junior Peyton Bonvillain.

Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas said splitting time works because each player brings something different to the table.

"It kind of keeps the defense off-balanced when you have two guys that have different attributes that make them good players," Dugas said. "Donta is known for his power and ability to generate something with his legs, but a lot of people don't realize that he has a good arm and can make plays in the vertical passing game.Peyton is a more of a true drop-back passer, but he also has the ability to make plays with his legs. "

Both players are making the jump to quarterback this season. Johnson was a Class 5A all-state running back last seasonwith 1,319 yards. Bonvillain played safety last season.

Johnson said it has been an easy transition because of his knowledge of the offense and his working relationship with Bonvillain.

"It's been an easy transition because I understand the system real well," Johnson said. "Peyton and I talk things out on the field and see what everybody is doing and try to get everyone involved in the offense."

Johnson said he likes to play quarterback because it keeps teams guessing.

"I can throw the ball, but I make defenses think a lot because they don't know if I am going to run it or throw it," he said. "We keep the opposing defenses thinking because Peyton can also run and throw the ball."

When Johnson is not playing quarterback, he will still remain on the field as the team's starting running back.

Bonvillain said when he and Johnson are on the field together, it keeps opposing defenses guessing.

"Teams can't key on Donta if we are on the field at the same time," Bonvillain said. "If he is in the game by himself, teams are likely to be keying on him."

Dugas said the plan throughout the season will be to put whoever has the "hot" hand at quarterback. That was the case during the Tigers' 27-14 win over Archbishop Shaw in the season opener, as both players saw time at quarterback. Bonvillain had some success throwing the ball, completing 6-of-10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson had 22 carries for 98 yards and two scores.

"When you have Peyton and Donta back there together, it put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses," Dugas said.

But Dugas' plan to use two quarterbacks was put in jeopardy when Bonvillain was involved in an Aug. 16 auto accident. Bonvillain was sidelined with stitches in his head and a deep leg bruise.

Dugas said after learning about the accident, football was the least of his concerns.

"When we got the call about Peyton's accident, football was pushed aside because we were worried if he was OK," he said. "Football was the last thing from our minds. We have a close-knit group, and they were more worried about their teammate."

With Bonvillain sidelined, Johnson took the majority of the snaps at quarterback during the scrimmage and jamboree.

"When something like that happened, I had to step it up," Johnson said. "I had to study hard and get everybody motivated and ready for the scrimmage and jamboree."

Bonvillain said sitting out the scrimmage and jamboree was tough because he wanted to be out on the field with his teammates. But he made the best of it by helping the coaching staff.

But when Friday's season opener arrived and he was cleared to play, Bonvillain said cherished the moment.

"It was so exciting to finally be out there," he said. "From the opening play, I was ready. Donta and I had been talking about it all week, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do out there."