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Gators, Patriots fighting to stay in playoff chase


With two games remaining in the 2013 high school football regular season, many teams are making a final push toward the state playoffs.

The final two games are especially important for the South Terrebonne Gators and Ellender Patriots. Both are battling to stay in the chase for the Class 4A playoffs.

"Both teams need this game," South Terrebonne coach Richard Curlin said. "We realize the situation we put ourselves in, and we basically need to win out. We have to win this one to win out."

According to Louisiana High School Football online's unofficial power rankings, South Terrebonne (4-4 overall, 2-1 in District 7-4A) and Ellender (4-4, 1-1 in district) are on the playoff bubble. The Gators are currently No. 31 in the unofficial Class 4A power rankings, while Ellender sits one spot ahead at No. 30.

"It's a critical game for both teams," Ellender coach Terry Washington said. "There are going to gain some valuable power points that's going to come about with this game on Friday night. Both teams are scrambling to try and get into the playoffs. It's a big game for us, and I think both teams will bring their ‘A' game."

Friday's district game will kickoff at 7 p.m. at South Terrebonne Memorial Stadium in Bourg, and it is a home game for Ellender. The game can be heard on 1490-AM.

Here are three things to look for from Friday's game.

CREPPEL OR ANDERSON?

Early in the 2013 season, Ellender featured one of the area's top passing attacks with senior quarterback Dustin "Doogie" Creppel at the helm.

Creppel had passed for 989 yards and 16 touchdowns before suffering a shoulder sprain in a Week 6 loss to Assumption.

Washington said Creppel will miss his third straight game on Friday, and sophomore Curtis Anderson will get the start at quarterback. Ellender will also be without wide receiver Jarred Turner, who has been sidelined since Week 3.

"It's going to be tough without all of our guys," Washington said. "At the end of the day, you have to handle adversity, and some of these other guys will have to step up this week."

Anderson has stepped up his level of play in Creppel's absence, completing 12-of-28 passes for 236 yards with two interceptions and four touchdowns and has added 33 carried for 125 yards and three scores in two games.

"He has done an outstanding job for us, and at the end of the day, we still need the senior leadership that we are missing with Creppel," Washington said. "But at the end of the day, we are very happy with the work Anderson has done for us so far."

Curlin said preparing for the game has been challenging because the Gators didn't know if they were facing a passing quarterback (Creppel) or a running quarterback (Anderson).

"It does present a challenge because one runs more than the other one does and one passes more than the other one does," Curlin said. "From that sense, it is going to be tough. We are going to prepare for both of them, and whoever is in the game that will be the game plan."

NO STRANGERS ON THE FIELD

Friday's game will be the 25th meeting between South Terrebonne and Ellender. The teams have met nearly every season since 1989. The 2008 game was canceled because of Hurricane Ike.

The Gators hold a 20-4 advantage in the series and have won 16 straight meetings. Ellender's last win came in the 1996 season.

Earlier this season, the two teams squared off in the Terrebonne Parish Jamboree, and Ellender scored a late touchdown for an 18-17 victory. Ellender's win does not count in the all-time meetings because jamborees are exhibitions.

Although the teams played in the jamboree, Curlin said neither team should have an advantage.

"We were pretty basic and pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball in the jamboree, and I'm sure they were too," he said. "I'm not big on winning the jamboree because that does not go down on anybody's record. They were able to pull it out in the end, and it doesn't bother us that we lost the jamboree. That's not a football game."

Washington said what happened in the jamboree will not matter in Friday's matchup.

"The jamboree is basically a scrimmage. You can't say a whole lot about it, and it doesn't mean a whole lot," Washington said. "As of right now, that team is playing real well, and we are not. We've gone back to the drawing board and are trying to put some things together to try and stop that offense because they are putting up some points, especially with their running game. It doesn't mean a whole lot winning that jamboree because at the end of the day, this is the one that counts."

FAMILIAR FACE IN BACKFIELD

With Creppel out, the Patriots will have to rely heavily on senior running back Justin Johnson.

Whether it is running the ball or catching passes, Johnson has been an offensive force for the Patriots. In eight games, he has rushed for 958 yards and eight touchdowns on 158 carries and has caught 14 passes for 176 yards and three scores.

Curlin is familiar with what Johnson can do on the field. He played for the Gators for a portion of the 2012 season. He had rushed 497 yards and six scores before transferring to Ellender for the remainder of his junior season.

"Justin is playing well for them, and he is running the ball hard for them," Curlin said. "We know that he is somebody that we have to keep in check, and we can't let him go off on us. We are game planning for that. Hopefully, we can keep it under control."