Fairly or not, folks in the Houma-Thibodaux area pinpointed Terrebonne as that local team that could maybe make a run to the Dome — expectations laid onto the team as early as this past spring.
It didn’t happen.
The Tigers finished 5-5 in the regular season and lost their opening-round playoff game on Friday against East Ascension.
But through it all, Tigers coach Gary Hill said he’s happy with how his team came together throughout the season, adding that he believes the future is bright for his team.
Terrebonne endured adversity and youth and points of the season — all while trying to replace an incredibly talented senior class that left the team after the 2019 season.
Hill said there were bumps and bruises, but added that they’ve made leaps beyond the initial growing pains.
“I’m so proud of how this team came together,” Hill said. “I thought early in the year, we had some situations where guys were maybe being a little too individualistic or maybe weren’t focused all the way like they needed to be. But I thought we really rallied together, played some pretty good football and I thought we continued to get better.”
The Tigers were brutally young.
Hill said Terrebonne starter sometimes as many as 7-8 sophomores this season — a tough chore for any team, much less one that plays in arguably the most difficult district in the state.
Early on, that youth showed.
Terrebonne struggled in the jamboree, then lost three of their first five games.
“I thought early in the year, we weren’t playing with the intensity we needed to succeed in this district, but that happens with youth,” Hill said. “When you have young players out there, you can practice and get them ready, but sometimes, you just never know exactly how they’re going to react when you get them on the field on Friday nights.”
In the back-end of the season, Terrebonne played much better.
They finished 3-3 in their final six games, but were a much better team.
They beat Destrehan 30-22 — their biggest win of the season.
They also beat Central Lafourche 40-18 in the season finale.
The three losses were all close, competitive games against top-tier competition. They lost 14-9 to Brother Martin, 15-13 to East St. John and then the 20-6 loss against East Ascension — a game that was tied at 6 at one time. Terrebonne had chances to win, but they could never get their offense going. The Tigers turned over the ball multiple times in the loss and most of their turnovers directly led to East Ascension points.
“We just couldn’t stop from shooting ourselves in the foot,” Hill said. “We turned over the ball too much.”
But Hill thinks the team’s future is bright.
The Tigers started all of those sophomores this year.
In 2019, they were inexperienced puppies who were sometimes overwhelmed. But in 2020, they will be experienced juniors who will have had a full offseason to get bigger, faster, stronger and more ready to handle the grinds of the season.
Ja’Khi Douglas will depart to the next level, and that will be a huge blow.
But the Tigers will return quarterback Ryan Williams, and several other playmakers who helped the team throughout the season.
Oh yeah, and they’ll have big Maason Smith back — the five-star defensive lineman who is going to literally have his pick of any college around the country in 2021.
Hill said Smith was a phenom in 2019.
“He’s just such a good kid,” Hill said. “It’s always great to coach talented players like that, but it’s even better when they’re humble and showing up every day to do things for the right reasons.
And all of that embodies Maason and all of the things that he stands for.”
Terrebonne’s schedule will be tough as heck again.
This is the second year of a scheduling cycle, so they will have to play all of the same opponents in 2020 as they did in 2019.
But Hill knows first-hand how much youth can blossom a team.
In 2017, Terrebonne was young, took some lumps and lost in the opening round of the playoffs.
The very next year, they went 9-1 and made the Quarterfinals of the Class 5A State Playoffs.
“We think the future looks good,” Hill said. “We like the kids we have back. We just have to keep working and get them better.”