Last year was a rough one for the Thibodaux High School football team.
The Tigers went 3-7, had a couple of rare lopsided defeats and missed the Class 5A State Playoffs — all rare occurrences for a prideful program that’s had a lot of success in the past decade.
But the Tigers were brutally young last year and battled severe injuries, which depleted their roster and put the team at a competitive disadvantage.
This fall, those young guys are older, those injuries are now healed and the Tigers think it’s time to go win some football games again.
Expectations are high around Thibodaux as the Tigers approach the beginning of the 2019 season. Coach Chris Dugas said last year’s youth has turned into this year’s experience and the team is now better equipped to handle the muscle in the local Class 5A District.
“We were as young last year as we’ve ever been, and we got even younger because of some injuries we had to endure,” Dugas said. “We were playing inexperienced players all over the field and at times, it showed. Physically, I don’t think we were ready and mentally, I think we struggled with the bright lights on Friday nights. We didn’t have that leadership that you need to have in a Class 5A season. But we have a lot of those guys back, and they’re all bigger and stronger and everyone is bought in. I think we’re excited about the season and everyone is ready to get back to work and try and get some of that bad taste from last year out of our mouths.”
Thibodaux has a rarity for a Class 5A team.
They have almost everything back on both sides of the ball.
Dugan said last year’s team had less than 10 seniors and only a handful of those seniors played a significant role on the field.
That means that this year’s depth chart is almost a mirror of last year’s on both sides of the ball — a luxury not many teams in the state have.
Offensively, Dugas said the Tigers have skill and speed all over the field.
Quarterback Luke Alleman is back after missing time last year with an injury. He’s a gunslinger and a leader at the position for the Tigers — a guy Dugas said has matured into the position throughout the offseason.
“The game has slowed down for him,” Dugas said. “Physically, he’s always had all of the tools. Now, you can see, the speed is much easier on him.”
But Thibodaux also has playmakers all around the field — a skill corps that includes UL-Lafayette commitment Kyren Lacy, Darwin Davis Jr., Maurquel Price and even Tyren Young, who played quarterback last year when Alleman went down.
Young will be a Jack of all trades for the Tigers this season — a guy who can play quarterback, halfback or slot receiver in addition to being an All-State-caliber free safety. Young was also a contributing guard on the Tigers’ State Championship-winning boys’ basketball team.
At halfback, Thibodaux will utilize the hard-nosed running of Ferronte Miller, as well as other bell-cows Dugas believes the Tigers have in their locker room.
“We like our skill guys,” Dugas said. “We think we have size, speed and depth there.”
Defensively, Dugas said the Tigers are exciting about being able to utilize Young’s skills as a ball-hawk — somewhat of a quarterback of that unit.
The Tigers have long envisioned using Young in that role, but injuries have put him in a heavier role on the offensive side of the ball, by necessity.
“Now, we get to unleash him and use him where we think he can really excel possibly at the next level,” Dugas said.
But for the Tigers, the key to 2019 will likely come down to what happens at the line of scrimmage.
Last year, Thibodaux was young up front, and their pups weren’t ready for the vicious Class 5A grind. Dugas said the Tigers struggled up front — even when healthy, but then got ravished by injuries, which totally depleted the team up front.
This year, Dugas said those players are better equipped to handle the season after a successful spring and summer.
The coach said he knows that the Tigers have to better control the trenches to have any chance to reverse their fortunes.
“The summer has been good and we’re ready to go,” Dugas said. “I don’t think anyone was happy with how last year ended up for us, so I think the kids are hungry to show that they can do more this fall and that’s what we plan to do.”