When the final seconds ticked off the clock of Thibodaux’s 40-20 win against H.L. Bourgeois last Friday, Braves coach Ben Powell had a message for the Tigers’ players as they won their first game of the year.
It’s a message players say precisely reflects Thibodaux’s attitude for the remainder of the season.
“H.L.’s coach said, ‘That’s probably the best 1-4 team in the state, probably ever,'” junior linebacker Nick Larose said. “We knew ourselves that we have what it takes. For someone else to see it and say it, I think it gave us a little bit of an extra spark.”
With Friday’s critical home matchup with Terrebonne looming, Lafourche Parish’s Tigers say they believe Powell’s statement will be proven fact when the team heads deeper into district play.
It better if the team hopes to make the playoffs after a rough first half of the season.
“It’s hard to always be the team looking for an upset,” Larose said. “It gets frustrating always feeling like you’re coming up a leg short. But there’s a lot of football left. Maybe it’s our turn to win some of these close ones. We think it is.”
Thibodaux has lost a game since Powell’s proclamation and stands at 1-5 – a record that looks bad on the surface.
Dig deeper into Thibodaux’s woes and it’s easy to see it’s not as ugly as it might seem.
The Tigers have played hands-down one of the most grueling schedule of anyone in the Tri-parish area, taking on state powers like Higgins, Zachary, Assumption, Rummel and New Iberia in their first six games.
“We sure didn’t hide from any competition,” Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas says with a chuckle while running his hands through his hair. “We’ve played nothing but tough teams right from the get-go.”
Dugas took the job as the Tigers’ coach in January and said he didn’t have a hand in making the team’s schedule, which was made by his predecessor Dennis Lorio.
“The only game I picked up personally was Zachary,” Dugas said. “We were supposed to have Helen Cox in the place of Zachary, but they sort of backed out on us, so pretty much the only option we had was Zachary.”
While Dugas said in future years, he hopes to keep the team’s schedule more localized, no one around Thibodaux regrets their 2011 gauntlet.
Sure, the Tigers record isn’t what anyone within the program would like. But Thibodaux has stared the best in the state in the eyes and have earned their respect.
Thibodaux played all of its non-district opponents to a near stalemate and even had a chance to win a few of the games in the final minutes.
“We’ve been close and truthfully, we probably should have stolen a couple of those games,” Dugas said. “We just know we have to keep playing hard. We’ve been in every game.”
Those lessons, players and coaches believe will carry the team through district play.
“Those are some of the best teams in all of Louisiana,” senior quarterback Aaron Thomas said. “We did more than held our own against those guys. We never held our heads down because we knew we were competing and were in every game.”
To make the turnaround possible, the Tigers will need its high powered offense to continue its first half success.
Thibodaux’s offense is anchored by Thomas, who is a first-year starter at the position, but has proven to be no rookie to making plays.
The 6-feet, 1-inch, 175-pound signal caller has both rushed for 100 yards and thrown for 100 yards on several occasions this season, firmly establishing himself as an elite local dual threat.
“He’s the type of kid who gives a defensive coordinator a nightmare,” Dugas said. “He’s a kid that we use heavily in the run game with quarterback read plays, but he’s also a kid that can have an impact in the passing game, not just as a thrower, but as a guy who can scramble and make plays when it’s not there.
“He’s just a playmaker.”
Thomas’ rise to opponent’s nightmare came in a way one might not expect. The quarterback said he was suspended for the first half of the team’s jamboree for a disciplinary issue.
Being on the sidelines while his team went to battle forced him to “grow up” and “take the game more seriously.”
“We had some little discipline things that kind of bogged us down early,” Thomas said. “Nothing major just some stupid little things. … I just decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me.”
“When everyone gets together, we kind of rally around him,” Larose added. “He amps us up. … After that [suspension] happened, he realized it was his senior year, he was one of our top players and he realized he had to do what he had to do to help us try and be successful. And he’s done it. He’s been terrific.”
With the season approaching its climax, it’s the Tigers’ defense that now needs a makeover.
Thibodaux has allowed 20 or more points in every game this season and 30 or more points on five occasions.
That humbling stat got even bleaker when the team’s defensive leader and LSU commitment went down with a knee injury and was forced to miss the team’s game against H.L. Bourgeois.
Dugas said Granier has been diagnosed with a partial tear of his MCL and will be out about a month.
The coach said no surgery will be needed to repair the tear and the team is being cautious with his return because of his future commitments inside of football.
“That hurts us a lot,” Dugas said. “Not having that big presence in the middle, that big plugging middle linebacker, it’s just hard to not have the leader of your defense there, especially when he’s a guy who’s been the leader of your defense for the last three years.”
With Granier gone, Dugas said it’s time for guys like Larose and Granier’s replacement sophomore Brent Sauce to step up.
They believe they can.
If they do, the team’s turnaround becomes even more likely.
Dugas likes his team’s chances.
“We’ve got a shot,” Dugas said. “We’re ignoring the record. We’ve got a shot to do a few great things and maybe surprise a few people.”
Everyone except Powell, it seems.
He just may know a winner when he sees one.
A Thibodaux offensive lineman pushes a pad at practice. The
Tigers are looking to push forward after a 1-5 start to the