St. Thomas More senior running back Evan Trahan knows how special the Cougars’ contest against Parkview Baptist for the Division II state championship Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be.

A year after being forced to sit out his junior season with a hamstring injury, Trahan has managed to stay healthy and make the most of his final season, leading St. Thomas More to its first state championship game appearance in school history as the team’s leading rusher.

“It was definitely a major setback, but it inspired me to just keep working harder toward the sport I love,” Trahan said. “It definitely caused me to be more thankful for the time I get on the field. It definitely makes me thankful for every play.”

Trahan has made the most of his opportunities this season, garnering almost 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns despite carrying the ball just 10.6 times per game by earning 7.8 yards per carry.

“Considering how much we spread the ball around, he’s put up some impressive numbers,” St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower said. “He really understands where the blocks are coming from and where the seams are going to be. He’s become a much more knowledgeable.”

But it hasn’t been easy all season for Trahan, who said he has had to work hard to stay healthy all season.

Most recently, Trahan went into the Cougars’ first playoff game against E.D. White Nov. 20 feeling under the weather and finding it hard to catch his breath.

Despite being ill, Trahan managed to make a big impact on the game, tallying 136 yards and three touchdowns on six carries before Hightower decided to sit him on the bench during the latter portion of the contest.

It wasn’t until Saturday he’d find out he had played the game while suffering from walking pneumonia.

“(Against E.D. White) they weren’t sure what it was,” Hightower said. “We just thought it was some kind of respiratory problem. He fought through it, and helped us build a comfortable lead. Then we were able to take him out and rest him.”

Trahan sat out of practice Monday and Tuesday, allowing him to heal for the Cougars’ much-anticipated rematch against Teurlings Catholic, which had beaten St. Thomas More during the regular season and limited Trahan to 12 yards on 10 carries, his lowest output of the season.

Trahan and the rest of his team redeemed their first performance against their district rivals, as Trahan garnered 91 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries as he helped lead St. Thomas More to its first trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“That was definitely a great way to redeem ourselves,” Trahan said. “We really focused and nitpicked on everything we did wrong (in the first game against Teurlings). It was nice to see that hard work pay off.”

With the biggest contest in St. Thomas More history mere days away, Trahan said he wants to cap his high school career with is best performance yet and lead the Cougars to their first state title.

“I definitely want this to be my most memorable and hard-fought game,” Trahan said. “I want to do my most aggressive running of the year and have one of my best games of the season.”