Thibodaux entered Week 10 thinking there was a 99.99 percent chance they’d have a home game to start the playoffs.
That .01 percent happened when East St. John had to forfeit games, which greatly hurt Thibodaux’s resume.
But now, the Tigers have a different goal in mind — go on the road, get a win, then come home and take on the No. 1 team in the state.
The Tigers are the No. 17 seed in Class 5A — the highest-seeded road team in the entire bracket.
Thibodaux will take on No. 16 Walker on Friday night — a game that coach Chris Dugas said will present the Tigers with challenges.
But Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas also knows his team is a byproduct of District 7-5A — one of the hardest districts in the state. The Tigers have played the best all year long and have beaten top-flight competition.
“I say this all of the time and some people may disagree, but I think our district is like the SEC West,” Dugas said. “Top-to-bottom, everyone can challenge you and everyone can push you to the brink and test your team. Every, single week, it’s a battle and I think because we’re so battle tested, it really helps our kids in situations like this. We’ve had to go on the road before. We’ve had to play good opponents on the road. It’s a playoff game now, but it’s not anything new to our football team.”
The Tigers will look to get their explosive offense going early on the road.
Thibodaux has a luxury not many prep football teams have — the ability to stretch the field vertically in the passing game.
Quarterback Luke Alleman is a force and he has weapons all over the field at his disposal who can make plays and take the tops off defenses.
Dugas said Alleman has matured and grown into such a poised pocket passer throughout the season. On Friday night, Thibodaux showed their explosiveness. They fell behind 14-0 against East St. John, then rattled home 14 unanswered in the second half to force overtime. The Wildcats’ defense is one of the best in the entire state.
“We like our offense. We think we can create mismatches and move the chains both with the run and the pass,” Dugas said. “We’ve done it against good defenses and we’re battle tested. The kids stay hungry and keep wanting to do more and get better.”
The Tigers’ defense will be challenged heavily, too, on Friday night.
Walker has a high-powered offense with athletes all over the field.
Receiver Jalen Cook is a big-time playmaker — one of the best in the state.
Walker has scored 21 or more points in every game this season and they’ve scored 26 or more points in 8-straight games.
“It’s the playoffs now,” Dugas said. “No matter where you turn, you know you’re going to be facing a team with elite athletes and quality football players.”
And as fate would have it, this is also somewhat of a “rematch” for these teams — a look back in time to one of the most memorable nights in the history of Thibodaux High School.
The Tigers are the defending Class 5A State Champions in basketball.
The team they beat in the State Championship Game? Walker.
The star player on Walker’s basketball team? Cook. He is an LSU basketball commitment and one of the best basketball prospects in the country.
The guy who will often be lined up looking to keep Cook from making big plays? That’d be Thibodaux defensive back Tyren Young. He was a member of the basketball title team and a contributor in Thibodaux’s win.
The familiarity is uncanny for two teams so far away on Louisiana’s map.
Dugas was not aware he was playing Walker when questioned on Saturday morning. He actually thought the Tigers were going to be playing Captain Shreve.
But Dugas has said many times that he thinks Thibodaux winning the basketball title has helped all of the sports at the school.
Now, it’s time to put that championship moxie to the test in a win or go home ballgame.
I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Dugas said. “We didn’t win ‘em all, but we just play so darned hard. We leave it all out on the field every, single game. The kids give me every ounce of energy that they have in their bodies every game. I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re just so proud of this group.”