If it feels like Thibodaux is in a high-stakes showdown every week, that’s probably because they are — one of the most challenging schedules in the state so far in Class 5A.
But perhaps their biggest test will come on Friday night against another unbeaten with the same color scheme and mascot name.
Both stakes and emotions will be high on Friday when Hahnville travels up the bayou to take on Thibodaux — a battle of powers in the local Class 5A district.
Both teams are 5-0. Both teams have won close, hard-fought games already in district play.
Something has got to give, but Tigers’ coach Chris Dugas said he’s happy that the game will be played from the comforts of home.
“We like to be in our backyard. That always excites the kids. That always gives them a little bit of extra juice,” Dugas said. “We expect that there’s going to be a big, loud crowd. There always is. We think it’s going to be a good football game. We’ve been in a bunch of those so far this season.”
The Tigers have had a flare for the dramatic this season.
They turn over the ball a ton, they sometimes make sloppy mental mistakes.
But when push comes to shove and it’s late in close games, they find ways to make plays and seal wins.
In Week 3, Thibodaux made a late field goal to beat McDonogh 35. They followed that up with a last-second touchdown in Week 4 to push past Central Lafourche. On Friday, they beat Terrebonne by a score, getting the go-ahead touchdown with 8 minutes left, then holding on with a pair of late-game defensive stops.
The Tigers are led offensively by prolific quarterback Luke Alleman, but Thibodaux also has playmakers all over the field.
But perhaps the underrated phase of the Tigers’ is their defense.
Dugas said he likes how those guys have played all season.
“They’re making flying under the radar a little bit,” Dugas said. “But they’ve come up big for us several times when we’ve needed them. I think the kids know that we wouldn’t have the record that we do if it weren’t for some of the plays that they’ve made.”
Against Hahnville, all three phases will be needed.
The River Parish Tigers are undefeated, too, having beaten several quality opponents in the first half of the season, including Denham Springs, Mandeville, Terrebonne and East St. John.
Hahnville is elite defensively, having allowed 14 or fewer points in 4 of their five games.
Tigers coach Nick Saltaformaggio said Hahnville has a total team approach to defense, relying on several playmakers to keep opponents off balance and out of rhythm.
Offensively, Hahnville is diverse, running spread sets, hitting opponents both on the ground and through the air.
“Our kids have come a long way and have worked very hard,” he said earlier this season. “We know we have some things we can continue to improve on, but we’re pleased with where things are right now.”
Dugas said one of the keys to Friday’s game will be his offensive line versus Hahnville’s defensive line, adding that Thibodaux must protect their passer.
The Thibodaux coach also said that he believes the Thibodaux defense must win first down to put Hahnville against the chains.
If it’s close late, Thibodaux has been in several hard-fought, competitive games, while Hahnville has secured victory earlier in most of their games.
If looking at common opponents, it’s still razor thin.
Both teams played Terrebonne.
Both teams beat Terrebonne.
Both won by exactly the same amount — 7 points.
Hahnville beat them 34-27. Thibodaux beat them at almost an identical score, winning 35-28.
Dugas said that’s why he’s glad Friday night’s game will be at home, adding that he hopes the team’s crowd gives Thibodaux’s players a little added push.
“Our kids are excited and happy to be sitting where we are,” Dugas said. “But we know we have to keep working hard and keep competing. With the schedule and district we play, you can’t take anything for granted. There will be close games and there will be adversity. We have to just keep handling it and keep working through it.”