Vermilion Catholic receiver Tyler Derouen enjoying new role this season _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Vermilion Catholic wide receiver Tyler Derouen (28) catches a touchdown pass over Westminster Christian Academy defensive back Cole Fournet (11) during the Kiwanis 2nd Annual Gridiron Football Jamboree at St. Thomas More Catholic High School Friday, August 28, 2015, in Lafayette, La.

Vermilion Catholic wide receiver Tyler Derouen ran a wheel route during the second quarter of last week’s Division IV select quarterfinal playoff game that took him near his own sideline.

Quarterback Hunter Frith feathered a pass over the head of a retreating linebacker from Delhi Charter and into the hands of Derouen, who after making the catch in stride, almost immediately took a jarring hit from another defender.

Derouen never lost his balance, shrugged off another potential tackle and completed the 85-yard scoring play, providing the No. 2 Eagles (10-2) a commanding 27-0 halftime advantage en route to a 44-14 victory.

VC will host No. 6 Southern Lab (8-3) in Friday’s semifinal round at 7 p.m.

“He’s everything you would want in a slot receiver,” VC coach Russell Kuhns said of Derouen. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s fast. He’s a tough, athletic kid and has the will to win.”

The explosive play typified another productive outing in which Derouen totaled five catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which covered 43 yards for a 14-0 lead.

With a more experienced and deeper corps of playmakers surrounding him, Derouen’s overall numbers have tapered off from a year ago, and that’s perfectly fine with the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder, who’s also excelled at strong safety during his career.

“Last year I was the only junior (skill position player) with experience,” said Derouen, who caught 65 passes for 1,152 yards and 15 TDs along with 124 carries for 634 yards and 13 scores. “That’s not really what a team needs to be successful.”

The thought of VC’s season crashing down in a 21-14 upset quarterfinal loss to Madison Prep was all the evidence Derouen needed that a redistribution of the team’s carries and receptions were needed.

The Eagles were able to oblige with a group of senior receivers in Devren Constantine, Payton Trahan and Emile Trahan could get open against man coverage and make opposing defenses pay for trying to double team Derouen.

The result this season for Derouen has been 55 catches for 1,285 yards and nine touchdowns, to go with 55 rushes for 388 yards and six TDs.

“I’ve got some great players that can also catch the ball as well,” Kuhns said. “Tyler just happens to be the one that has the most yards. Being able to move him around allows opportunities for other guys. Not only is he good to throw to, but he’s a good decoy no matter where you put him.”

Derouen’s path to the playing field originated four years ago on defense, where he started at linebacker. A year later, with the graduation of all-state safety Joey Faulk, Derouen filled that void where he’s remained, giving the Eagles a solid tackler in run support who has excelled in coverage.

Derouen’s 73 tackles rank third on the team and his five interceptions, including a touchdown return against Lafayette Christian, is tops on the team.

The time at safety has been beneficial to Derouen the receiver, who said his understanding of defensive backs thought process and their instincts enable him to adjust his routes.

“It’s made everything about being a receiver a lot easier,” he said.

With his latest playoff outburst Derouen has registered four games with more than 100 yards receiving this season, highlighted by a seven-catch, 123-yard, two-TD effort in a key 48-30 District 7-1A victory over Central Catholic-Morgan City.

“It was fun being the guy last year, but I’d much rather have my role this season,” Derouen said. “We have more weapons and everybody’s in the right spot. It’s translated into more team success, which is everything.”