Gators more experienced in 2019, eager to build on last year’s successes


South Terrebonne head football coach Richard Curlin has been a football coach for 36 years. 

By now, he knows a good team from a bad one. By now, he enters each football season with a pretty good idea of what the Gators will have when the season begins. 

About 3-4 years ago, Curlin admitted it would be a struggle. In a candid interview, he said the Gators were as young as they’d ever been in his coaching tenure, playing sophomores and even freshmen in some spots.

“We’re as young as we’ve ever been,” Curlin said in 2016. “We’re playing more sophomores now than we’ve maybe ever played combined in my time here.” 

In 2016, the team finished 2-8. In 2017, they finished 3-7 — rare tough times for a program that’s been a staple for consistent over the past several decades.

But the best part about youth is that, given time, it someday becomes experience.

And that time is right now in Bourg. 

The Gators are older now, and they have winning experience after making the playoffs last fall.

Now, it’s time to mesh and make it happen under the lights.

Expectations are high at South Terrebonne after last season’s trip to the Class 4A State Playoffs.

Curlin, now entering his 30th season as a head coach, said he thinks the Gators have a chance to be good if they stay healthy and if the team stays on an even keel.

“We have a chance,” Curlin said at Tri-Parish Media Day. “We have some guys coming back with experience and we have some younger guys who we’re pretty excited about, too. It’s a good mix. We still need to execute. But we think we have the talent to be in the mix.”

The Gators have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball — perfect fits into their Wing-T system.

Quarterback Michael Gautreaux III is back after serving as a game manager last year for the Gators — a guy who made plays with both his arm and legs at times last fall.

Curlin said Gautreaux has had a good offseason and is ready to help the team. 

“He’s one of the best athletes we have on the team,” Curlin said. “He can help us in a lot of ways.” 

Also back is playmaker Jamala Ricks and Colby Chelette — a powerful inside runner who played fullback a lot last year for the Gators. He will also have chances to play wing back this fall, and can even be a pass catcher at times as the team looks to grow its short passing game.

“The kid just never stops,” Curlin said. “He’s strong and physical and he has a motor. He’s a guy that we’re going to be looking to quite a bit on Friday nights, but I think everyone knows that.”

The Gators are also excited about the potential of Peyton Parr on offense — a guy who has been a defensive back in years past, but who is testing out wide receiver.

Curlin said Parr is a physical player who loves contact and is aggressive. Those traits could make him an inside weapon on the middle. He also has sneaky quick speed to potentially take the top off of defenses.

“He’s a football player,” Curlin said. “He plays with an edge.” 

Defensively, Curlin said the Gators will be stout. Chelette will play on the defensive line and the Gators also return experienced hands like Tyler Melancon, David Lirette, Dylan Authement and others. Parr, too, will play on that side of the ball at his usual defensive back position.

“We like our defense,” Curlin said. “We have a lot of guys there who have played on Friday nights. We think that group is coming together and doing a lot of really good things.”

So the key for the Gators now will be to progress and build off last year. South Terrebonne started slow in 2018, then got hot late, making a final push into the postseason.

This year, the Gators play H.L. Bourgeois, Berwick, Terrebonne, Patterson and E.D. White before opening up district play.

Curlin said making the playoffs last fall was good for his team, adding that throughout the offseason, coaches have preached continuing that momentum forward and into the new season.

“I think getting to the playoffs was good for us,” Curlin said. “I think this year, we’re challenging ourselves to maybe have the chance in the final weeks of the season to avoid that big, long bus ride to North Louisiana and maybe have someone coming to play us in the first round.”  •

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