The South Lafourche football team is winless in the first month of the season.
But yet if the playoffs started today, the Tarpons would comfortably be in the playoffs. And actually, they wouldn’t even be too far away from receiving a home game, either.
How can that be, you ask?
Well, they have one of the most difficult schedules in the state of Louisiana to thank for that.
The Tarpons have played a murderous non-district schedule — a slate of games that’s pit them against some of the best teams in the state among several classifications.
At press-time, the Tarpons are 0-4, but the combined record of their opponents so far this season is 14-2. The only games their opponents have lost are games amongst each other. St. Charles (Week 1 opponent) beat Lutcher (Week 4 opponent), and Central Lafourche (Week 3 opponent) beat Thibodaux (Week 2 opponent).
This coming week won’t be a cakewalk, either — a date at undefeated Belle Chasse.
Tarpons coach Blake Forsythe said he wanted to schedule hard to get power points and to challenge his team before district.
Mission accomplished. The Tarpons’ have generated enough schedule points so far to easily remain in postseason contention, despite the slow start.
“We wanted to make sure we knew what we needed to do to get ready for district play,” Forsythe said. “These games are tough. But they’re testing our guys and showing us what we need to get better at. We think when we get into district play, some of our young guys will be more experienced and a little more battle tested and we think we will be in position to play our best football at the right time of the year.”
For the Tarpons, it all centers around moving the football offensively.
The Tarpons utilize a run-heavy Flex offense that’s built on moving down the field in small chunks, while grinding down the clock and protecting a defense from the field.
When it works, it’s excellent, and in a 48-minute game, it could be lethal in stealing possessions away from more athletic teams, because the Tarpons have a mean, opportunistic defense that’s had several big-time moments so far in the early stages of the year.
But right now, it’s not, and the Tarpons are hurting.
South Lafourche gained just more than 100 yards total in their first two games of the season — a lot of those yards coming late in both games.
In those games, the team never scored a touchdown and mustered just 6 total points.
Against Central Lafourche in Week 3, the Tarpons were better, pushing forward for more than 200 total yards and 13 points. The team could have had more if not for turnovers and penalties in the red zone, which halted drives.
Forsythe said the reason for the Tarpons’ struggles offensively are correctable — centered on a combination of small, correctable mistakes and youth.
South Lafourche has several new starters offensively and some of those guys are just sophomores, including quarterback Patrick Gisclair, fullback Derin Doucet and receiver Jackson Autin.
But the beauty of youth is it one day blossoms into experience, and Forsythe said he’s pleased with how his new starters are progressing, and knows that by the time those kids are seniors, look out.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “It’s a process and it’s taking a little time to get it clicking like we’d want it to be, but the kids are keeping their heads up and I think we’re starting to see some of that progress.”
The Tarpons have also started to tweak their play-calling a little bit. As teams have seen them on film, they’ve crept up to the line of scrimmage heavily to take away the run.
That’s allowed the Tarpons to showcase Gisclair’s arm a little bit more in recent weeks.
“We’re seeing more guys in the box,” Forsythe said. “So we’re opening it up a little bit and putting it in the air. We’ll do that if we have to and when the numbers work to our advantage.”
If the target is district play, the Tarpons have a week to peak. They face Belle Chasse on Friday night, then open up district at Vandebilt next Friday before moving through the grind of the local 4A district.
Doing a little math, it’s easy to pencil the team into the playoffs even if they win just a handful of games — because of the strength of their schedule.
That sounds crazy, but heck, that’s why they made such a schedule.
It’s hard to deny that it’s working out in the team’s favor.
“We knew before the season it would be a hard schedule,” Forsythe said. “It’s successful programs and some 5A schools. But we knew it’d help our power point numbers and we knew it would get us ready. I think it’s doing exactly that for our football team.”