Returning to the Field: E.D. White and Thibodaux

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Week two of summer workouts is in full swing for local high school football teams, who picked back up with practices last week after Louisiana’s shift to Phase 2 of the coronavirus reopening plan. 


Though new social distancing, health screening and cleaning measures are now in effect for workouts, teams are excited to be back in action ahead of their 2020 seasons.


We’ll be checking in with local teams over the next few weeks to learn how their return to the field has gone. (Read part one featuring South Terrebonne High School and Terrebonne High School here and part two featuring Vandebilt Catholic High School and Ellender Memorial High School here).


E.D. White Catholic High School


Over in Thibodaux, the Cardinals are relieved to be back at work ahead of their 2020 campaign.


Head Coach Kyle Lasseigne said it was tough to not have his players on campus for the last few months. Now, though, he is satisfied with how easily his players jumped back into the swing of practice and how hard they’ve worked the last two weeks.


Lasseigne believes the excitement among his players is possibly even more prevalent than it would have been if they had been on campus continuing with their traditional schedule the last few months.


“I think everybody was kind of anxious about whether we were actually going to get to start, and so it was a relief that we could actually take a step toward actually playing a season. I think that was a source of excitement between coaches and players,” Lasseigne said. 


Lasseigne said the team continued to hold virtual video meetings over Zoom once schools closed their doors and stay-at-home orders were put into place to slow the spread of COVID-19. 


Though sports were put on hold and the Cardinals were distant from one another, Lasseigne said that even their Zoom calls proved how eager they were to get back to work.


“I found out really quickly that Zoom doesn’t allow more than 100 kids, and we had 100 kids trying to get into a Zoom meeting, and it’s kind of crazy that there was so much interest in playing and getting back on the field that even a Zoom meeting was really well-attended,” Lasseigne said.


In the midst of a news cycle filled with doubts over whether or not fall sports will be allowed to take place, Lasseigne said the Cardinals are choosing not to talk about the fate of the 2020 football season. 


Instead, they’re focusing on approaching workouts with the mindset that the season will, in fact, happen. 


“I think the only way you can approach this is as if you’re going to have a season. If you approach it the opposite way, then you’re going to be so far behind that you’re going to struggle because you’re not going to be ready for a season. If it doesn’t happen, then at least we can say we prepared well, and we were ready to play a season,” Lasseigne said. “Until somebody tells us something different, then we’re going to plan on playing a season.”


The Cardinals have operated practice at staggered times in groups of 25 people. They conduct most of their workouts outside, which makes distancing much easier with such a large roster, Lasseigne said.


In the weight room, stations are spaced six feet apart.


Before each practice session, the team follows standard screening procedures required of all teams, including temperature checks. Lasseigne said the Cardinals have had no issues so far. 


Even as the excitement over the approaching season runs throughout the team, there is still a sense of sadness for those athletes who recently graduated and saw their senior year and final spring sports seasons cut short.


With a daughter who recently graduated from EDW, Lasseigne knows firsthand how resilient teenagers can be.


“It’s something that I think develops a mentality that, no matter what the circumstance–whether we’re playing or we’re not playing, whether you get the job or you don’t get the job–things are not always going to be perfect in life, but that shouldn’t prevent you from preparing…Things are not always going to be like they are right now, and I hope that it makes them better people in the future,” Lasseigne said. 


As the 2020 season approaches, Lasseigne said the Cardinals are more prepared than they’ve ever been before.


Lasseigne said that the time off has given him and his coaching staff a chance to evaluate what happened last season. This fall, fans are set to see an improved Cardinals team take the field.  


“We’re going to do the best that we can to correct the issues that we had last year, and that’s always going to be our focus: to improve every year. I really like the leadership of our senior group, and I like the numbers that we have out on the field,” Lasseigne said. “Our kids are always going to work really hard. I think that [fans] can expect to see some excitement this year.”


Thibodaux High School


Right across town, the Tigers are also relieved to have some sense of normalcy back.


Despite the changes in the way workouts are typically conducted, Head Coach Chris Dugas said his players were thrilled to be together again in some capacity.


“That first day back, it was kind of like the biggest smiles I had seen in a long time. I think the kids were kind of excited to see some of their teammates, even though right now we can’t have full team workouts,” Dugas said. “Just getting to see some of their teammates again and getting to see a couple of their coaches here and there again, I think it was a good thing for the kids.”


Losing spring football and the first week of June left the Tigers without several weeks of conditioning and training, Dugas said. Now, the team is “pressing on” and making up for lost time ahead its first day of full-pad practice on Aug. 3.


In a world of uncertainty, Dugas is keeping his players grounded in one optimistic promise: they’re going to play football in the fall. 


“I really feel confident about it…and we have to treat it as though we are going to play football. We can’t assume the worst,” Dugas said. “I’m just telling them [to] prepare like we’re going to have a normal season. We’re going to have fans. We’re hoping 2020’s not going to be any different than 2019 was…That’s kind of that attitude that we’re trying to take right now with our kids. Let’s be positive. Let’s stay glass-half-full.”


The Tigers are following health and safety procedures required of every school, including limiting groups to 25 players or less. Dugas said they are working out in groups of 21, which consist of 20 players and Dugas himself, and keeping six feet of distance between athletes. 


The team is alternating days between the weight room and outdoor drills like sprints and conditioning drills. 


In the weight room, workout stations are limited to two players per station. Dugas said that the Tigers’ athletic trainer has spearheaded cleaning efforts in the weight room, ensuring that equipment is sprayed and wiped down after each group’s use.


The Tigers are coming off of a 7-4 season in 2019, capped off with a trip to the first round of the Louisiana Class 5A playoffs, as well as an impressive signing class.


Dugas said he hopes this unprecedented time makes everyone stronger and helps everyone, especially those seniors who lost the ends of their senior school years and seasons, to learn to keep moving forward despite the circumstances. 


“We had quite a few guys from my team last fall that signed and are going on to play at the next level, so we’ve been seeing a lot of those guys around campus, outside training and stuff like that, running along the road and doing stuff like that to stay in shape, so we just wish those guys the best. They were instrumental in continuing the success of the program for us at Thibodaux,” Dugas said. 


As for the upcoming senior class, Dugas said they have done a great job of stepping up and taking on their leadership roles, both during the stay-at-home order and now that workouts have resumed.


Dugas said that the coaches sent workout plans for staying active at home to players when schools closed. 


“A lot of our seniors got on the message board and encouraged guys every morning to get after it, and since we’ve been back, those guys have continued their leadership role. They send little messages on the Hudl message board every day [like] ‘Remember to keep hydrating,’” Dugas said. “‘Remember to bring your water jug.’ Remember to bring your cleats when we go outside.’”


When fall arrives, fans are going to see an “exciting” Tiger team, Dugas said. 


The Tigers graduated many of their key offensive players, including their receiving corps. However, Dugas said their offense is set to pick up on the success of last year, and the coaching staff feels “really good” about where they stand on the defensive side of the ball.  


“I think we’re going to be a fun team to watch, and I think that we can be a team that will compete for a district championship,” Dugas said.