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Thibodaux, Vandebilt meet in early showdown



The Thibodaux Tigers and Vandebilt Catholic Terriers have followed similar paths so far this season.

Both teams turned in impressive performances at the Thibodaux High Jamboree, and they followed it with similar performances in Week 1 of the regular season. Both teams got off to slow starts before pulling away in the second half for the win.

Thibodaux and Vandebilt also find themselves in the top two spots in The Courier/Daily Comet's weekly six-pack ranking.

On Friday, the Tigers (1-0 and No. 1 in the six-pack ranking) and Terriers (1-0 and No. 2 in the six-pack ranking) meet in an early season showdown. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Buddy Marcello Stadium in Houma.

Both teams opened the 2013 season with some impressive wins. Thibodaux opened the season with a 27-14 win over Archbishop Shaw, while Vandebilt stopped rival E.D. White Catholic, 27-9.

"I think both teams got some momentum with wins against some pretty good opponents," Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas said. "We both had goods tests in the first week, and I know that (Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso) and I are pretty happy with where our teams are right now."

For the Tigers, they had to overcome a 14-7 halftime deficit against Shaw. Thibodaux struggled on both sides of the ball in the first half, committing two turnovers on offense and allowing 197 yards and two scores on defense.

Dugas said he challenged his team at halftime, and the players answered the call. The Tigers scored three touchdowns and shutout Shaw in the second half.

"We were kind of flat on both side of the ball last week, but I challenged the kids at halftime to come out and play with some enthusiasm," Dugas said. "I felt like we did that by controlling the ball on offense and creating some turnovers on defense. I thought we played well in the second half, but there are still some things that we need to clean up."

Vandebilt's game followed a similar script. The Terriers struggled to get their offense going in the first half, as the score was tied at 3 at halftime.

But in the second half, it was all Terriers, as they outscored the Cardinals 24-6 to pull away for the win.

"We played good for a half," Villavaso said. "Last week, it was a 3-3 tie at halftime. We did some good things, but we just couldn't be consistent in anything we were doing. In the second half, our guys found their niche and started playing a little better."

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Here are three things to watch for during Friday's game:

LOADED ON OFFENSE

When thinking of Thibodaux's offense, one player typically comes to mind — Donta Johnson. Last season, Johnson was an all-state running back, rushing for 1,319 yards.

This season, Johnson will be taking on more responsibilities, as he splits time with Peyton Bonvillain at quarterback.

But Thibodaux's offense does not center around Johnson. In fact, the Tigers feature several quality skill players, including running backs Jaquan Chenier and Iryan Baptiste and wide receiver Jason Richard.

"Offensively, we have quite a few weapons," Dugas said. "A lot of people know about Donta and his ability, but we have some other guys that can come in and make some plays for us."

Villavaso said he is impressed with Thibodaux's offense and stopping its skill players will be a challenge.

"We are going into a game where they are bigger than us and faster than us," he said. "We have a huge challenge ahead of us. We can't make mistakes defensively and leave them open for their receivers because we can't catch them. We will try to keep them in front of us as much as we can."

PASSING GAME TAKES FLIGHT

During the 2012 season, Vandebilt's offense centered around one player — quarterback Elijah McGuire. He was a big-play threat every time he touched the ball, finishing with more than 2,600 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns.

This season, the Terriers will be looking to throw the ball more with quarterback Bailey Pere. Against E.D. White, he completed 11-of-19 passes for 174 yards.

"As soon as Elijah was gone, we knew that there was no way we were going to be able to just line up and run the ball," Villavaso said. "Teams were going to load the box on us, and we just don't have a kid that can do what Elijah did. We knew that we were going to have to throw the ball, and we knew Bailey was capable of doing that."

GETTING DEFENSIVE

After analyzing the tape from last week's wins, both coaches said they were impressed with the play of their defense.

Thibodauxss defense picked up its level of play in the second half, limiting Shaw to 52 yards and no points.

"The last couple of weeks, we have been playing pretty stingy on defense, and hopefully, we can continue to do that," Dugas said. "In the first half, we were a little lackadaisical, but we really stepped to the plate in the second half."

Vandebilt's defense caused E.D. White problems, limiting the Cardinals to five first downs and 130 total yards.

"I didn't realize how well we played in the E.D. White game," Villavaso said. "After watching the film, we had a lot of guys after the ball. We guys fit into the gaps and be in the right place at the right time. We are pretty good defense when the guys understand the opposing offense and understand their responsibilities."