New Iberia running back Markel Linzer is part of the Jackets' 1-2 punch so far this season.

In 2019, Lafayette and New Iberia high schools combined to win six games.

This season, however, the Mighty Lions and Yellow Jackets are riding high with 3-0 records as they prepare to clash in a District 3-5A contest at Lafayette High on Friday.

It will be the league opener for New Iberia, while Lafayette High is 2-0 in district after defeating Comeaux and Sulphur.

"It's amazing what winning does for morale," said second-year New Iberia coach Curt Ware, whose team went 2-8 last season.

After an impressive offseason in the weight room, Ware's team is noticeably bigger and stronger.

New Iberia boasts three of the area's top rushers in Markel Linzer, Tyce Fuselier and Alvin George III. Linzer leads the team with 378 yards on 30 carries and has nine touchdowns.

"He's learned how to be a running back," Ware said of Linzer, a senior. "As a freshman and sophomore, he was a receiver."

Fuselier has 306 yards on 50 carries with five TDs, and George has 45 carries for 247 yards and a touchdown in the Yellow Jackets' Wing-T offense.

"To be successful with a Wing-T offense, you have to be able to run the ball," Ware said. "What's good is that we're getting production from all three backs. Alvin had 90 yards vs. Donaldsonville last week.

"He's much more physical than a year ago. After a year in the system, he's learned where the cuts are. Tyce is the only one of the three with running back experience. Alvin had always played defense until now."

The Yellow Jackets have also sparkled on defense, particularly up front.

"Our defensive line is really good," Ware said. "Mike Akins and Quentin Cook are playing well. Daqwan Jones is also playing well. I don't think we've given up 100 rushing yards in a game."

One area Ware said needs improvement is the secondary.

"We have to do a better job with not giving up big plays," he said. "We don't have a lot of depth at cornerback."

New Iberia routed Lafayette High 42-11 last year, but Ware is wary of the Mighty Lions this time around.

"They're a much different football team," he said. "Coach Cedric Figaro has them playing much more physical. On offense, they go with double tight ends and run right at you. If they can do that, they're content."

Last week, Lafayette High quarterback Xan Saunier rushed for 205 yards in a 28-14 win at Sulphur.

"Saunier is really good," Ware said. "And they're physical on defense. Coach Figaro's son (Thaos Figaro) was the defensive district MVP last season. He was the best player in the district."

Saunier has rushed 35 times for 445 yards and five touchdowns.

"I don't know if anyone knew he was a running threat before this year," Figaro said. "Xan is getting more confident — not that he was lacking confidence.

"We haven't been dependent on one particular thing. Our running backs have carried us at times. Our defense has carried us at times. But nobody is where they want to be right now. We're still just moving forward with baby steps."

In a Week 1 win over Patterson, the Mighty Lions forced five turnovers with linebackers Seth Jones and Oliver Craddock returning three interceptions for touchdowns.

"Oliver has a 35 on the ACT," Figaro said of the senior, who had two of the interception returns against Patterson. "He's a brilliant student. He brings that same brilliance to defense, as well.

"None of the guys in our secondary — Simeon Jones, Chris Derousselle, Khareem Valliere and Nick Cormier — have a lot of experience, but they've played well in our first three games."

Figaro said he knows that his defensive front seven will need a strong performance against New Iberia's ground attack.

"NISH runs an offense that's confusing to a defense," Figaro said. "We have to play assignment football. They do a good job of hiding the football, and they're going to come down and try to smash you in the mouth. They've been doing a good job of pounding the ball. Hopefully we can slow them down."