When St. Martinville hired former Northside coach Vincent Derouen to turn around its struggling football program, Cecilia coach Terry Martin knew exactly what the Tigers were getting.
Martin spent 11 years on the Breaux Bridge coaching staff competing against Derouen’s teams, and when Martin became head coach at Cecilia, he continued to scrimmage Northside before eventually moving into the same district.
“I was happy for him when he got that job,” Martin said. “It was great for him to get back into coaching and great for St. Martinville, but I knew immediately it was bad for all of us.”
Derouen has resurrected St. Martinville from a one-win team a year ago to a 6-3 team that will host Cecilia (8-1) for the District 5-4A championship when the teams with 3-0 league records meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Martinville.
“I knew he was going to get kids out who hadn’t played before,” Martin said. “I knew he was going to bring an extra level of toughness to them and it shows. His fingerprints are all over that team.”
The All-St. Martin Parish battle for league supremacy was moved up a day to avoid inclement weather in Friday’s forecast.
Two games that were already set for Thursday: Acadiana (6-2, 5-0) hosting New Iberia (4-5, 3-2) in District 3-5A and Opelousas (0-9, 0-4) visiting No. 6 Teurlings Catholic (6-3, 3-1) in District 4-4A.
“I think these kids are better with people they know,” Derouen said of his team being able to handle a championship environment. “They’ll get up for the game a little more and be more motivated. I thought we played well against Breaux Bridge (13-6 win).”
St. Martinville has relied on a methodical offensive approach and stifling defense to reverse its fortunes.
Quarterback Jared Davis is expected back after sitting out last week’s 17-10 win over Westgate because of an injury and teams with senior running back Kain Pitre as St. Martinville tries to control the ball and keep it from Cecilia’s high-powered offense.
“We’re going to try to keep the ball away from them as much as we can,” Derouen said. “They have all the facets of the game, and they’re pretty good. They can spread you out and can run it inside. We have to play a total game and be sound on defense.”
Outside linebacker David Charles is the team’s leading tackler and paces a unit that’s allowed 7.0 points during district.
“I’m really impressed with their defense,” Martin said. “They have some good looking kids; that same physical style. They come downhill and hit you.”
Cecilia counters with one of the area’s top offenses, triggered by one of the state’s most productive running backs in Raymond Calais Jr. (200-1,964, 21 TDs).
Quarterback Landon Roberts has completed 61 of 112 passes for 1,386 yards and 18 TDs, with Kenya Dartez leading the way with 34 catches for 954 yards and nine TDs.
Adam Chung leads the Bulldogs defense with 78 tackles, while Keldrick Zeno has eight interceptions.
“We’re kind of in the same position,” said Martin, whose team is trying to win its first district title since 2008 and lock up a top-three seed for next week’s playoffs. “(The Tigers) been through a lot of bad over the last several years and so has our senior group. It should be a great atmosphere.”