Both teams were challenged in the first half of the season, but not so much in the second half.
So now that the third part of the season is set to begin, the Vermilion Catholic Screamin’ Eagles and Catholic High of New Iberia Panthers are hoping they’re both fine-tuned enough to make a deep runs in the state playoffs.
In Vermilion Catholic’s case, coach Kevin Fouquier’s club beat Catholic High 43-32 in the season opener, lost to Opelousas Catholic 33-21 and was taken the wire by Kaplan 25-22 in the first half.
Since then, the Eagles have outscored their district foes 215-30 over the final five games.
The expectation is the Eagles will be the No. 1 seed in the Division IV state playoffs when the LHSAA releases the football brackets Sunday.
“We’ve continued to get better as the season’s gone on,” Fouquier said. “I attribute that to our strength coach John Thompson. Our kids lift twice a week. Our kids are putting on weight, gaining five pounds, some of them seven pounds. We’re not losing weight like a lot of teams.”
Where’s that really showed up is in the running game. For instance, when starting quarterback Drew Lege went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of Friday’s 29-0 win over Central Catholic of Morgan City, the running game took over with 205 yards rushing to complement 121 yards in the air.
Andre LeBlanc led the way with 83 points, followed by Moe Maxile with 63 and Joshua Sagrera added 35.
“Our offensive line has been the key,” Fouquier said. “We rotate three tailbacks. All three of them can catch and all three of them are different. But really it’s our offensive line. They’ve done an outstanding job.”
Free safety Andrew Marceaux took over for Lege, who is expected back in VC’s second playoff game.
“Nobody’s blinked,” Fouquier said. “We just went on. We have full confidence in Marceaux. He’s our starting free safety. He gives us a dimension running it that Drew does and he can throw it as well. He’s a baseball pitcher, so he has a strong arm.”
The only issue from here on out for VC (9-1) is how deep the Division IV playoff bracket appears to be this season.
“I really think there’s eight, maybe even nine, teams capable of winning the state championship,” Fouquier said. “There’s no doubt, this is deepest the Division IV bracket has been.”
Catholic High, meanwhile, began the season 0-3 with losses to VC, Breaux Bridge and Barbe.
Over the next seven games, the Panthers outscored their opposition 388-86.
“We’ve definitely gotten better,” said Catholic coach Brent Indest, who said the biggest upgrades over the last seven weeks have been in the trenches. “Sure, we still have some things we’ve got to clean up if we’re going to make a push. Early in the year, we were really bad on third down defensively.
"I think we’ve cleaned that up, but the last few weeks, we’ve been giving up big plays. I’m not talking about 20-yard plays. I’m talking about 60-yard plays. It’s a lack of execution for certain, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from.”
Editor's note: This file will be updated throughout the weekend as scores, stats and stories are submitted.
The Panthers are expected to be the No. 7 seed in the Division III playoffs. That likely means a first-round meeting with St. Thomas Aquinas and then potentially another showdown with No. 2 Notre Dame.
“We seem to be clicking pretty good on offense,” Indest said. “What really worries me is we haven’t had to throw it at all in district. We came into district averaging about 150 yards passing a game. In district, we haven’t thrown it as much and we know we’re going to have to throw it more if we make a push in the playoffs.”