All year long, it seemed like a certainty that Assumption would win the local Class 4A district.
But on Friday night, Vandebilt Catholic has a chance to slam that door shut and come home with the trophy.
The stakes will be high on Friday when the Terriers take on the Mustangs in a battle of district unbeatens.
Both teams are 3-0 in district play. The winner of the game will clinch at least a share of the district championship.
The game is in Napoleonville, which is an advantage to the Mustangs, but Vandebilt coach Lance Ledet said his team is ready to travel up to Napoleonville and try and make some noise.
“We told the kids — take care of business, handle what you can control, then let’s go have a chance to win a district championship,” Ledet said. “We think it’s going to be a challenge. We know Assumption is a very strong football team. But we’re looking forward to the opportunity to going out there, competing and showing what we can do.”
If both teams are on, don’t expect a whole bunch of points in this game.
Assumption’s defense is monstrous — a dominating force that’s suffocated teams throughout the erly stages of the season.
The Mustangs are 7-1 and in 5 of the 7 wins, they’ve won via shutout. In district play, Assumption has played three games and no one has scored on them yet this season.
On Thursday night, their defense suffocated and blanketed an Ellender offense that has athletes galore in a blowout shutout win.
“Our defense is playing hard and doing the things we’re asking them to do,” Mustangs coach Tony Paine said earlier this season. “We’re attacking, trying to win on first down and controlling the down and distance to keep our opponents out of sync and out of rhythm.”
Ledet said what makes Assumption good on defense is their size, athleticism and speed. Ledet said it’s hard to watch film and identify a sure weak spot that an offense can attack and exploit.
“They have some really, really good football players,” Ledet said. “And they’re very well coached. That’s obviously a good recipe.”
But Vandebilt isn’t too shabby, either. Those cats are playing defense just as good as the Mustangs — especially lately .
The Terriers have allowed just 19 points in their past 4 games — all wins. In district play, Vandebilt has kept opponents out of the scoreboard, while also forcing turnovers. On Thursday night, the Terriers forced 3 Gators turnovers, which gave Vandebilt some extra possessions to overcome a 9-7 halftime deficit and secure a 31-7 win.
“We’re been doing a good job generating takeaways, which have been big for us,” Ledet said. “Our guys have worked hard. They’ve done an excellent job getting better. Now, it’s time to put it to the test against a really good football team.”
So with two solid defenses, the tale may be told by which offense has the most success on Friday night.
Vandebilt is a run-heavy offense led by quarterback Gavin Daigle. He makes plays with his arm and legs throughout the game.
Assumption is a spread attack that can both run and throw.
Quarterback Sage Rivere is accurate and has a plethora of playmakers at his disposal — including Jaden Tyler, who caught several passes in Thursday’s win against Ellender.
“We’re starting to get our stride on that side of the ball,” Paine said. “We’ve really been starting to play some of our best football of the season on that side.”
There are huge implications on both sides.
Yes, the district championship is on the line and that’s a huge source of pride for any high school football program, but the winner of this game will also earn valuable playoff seeding.
Assumption is currently No. 8 in the state in Class 4A power ratings. Continuing to win could ensure that the Mustangs have the chance to host multiple home playoff games.
For Vandebilt, seeding is also key. The Terriers are just outside of the Top 8 in Division II, which means that they have to win both of their final two games to have a chance to get that home playoff game.
Ledet said he doesn’t follow power rating math, but said he knows it’s a big game, and it’s his hope that the Terriers are ready to compete in such a high-stakes affair.
“We think the kids will be ready and it will be a great week of practice,” Ledet said. “These are the types of games that are why you play high school football. We expect it to be a great challenge.”