Photos: Carver shrugs off Riverdale, Vermilion Catholic stand strong in prep football Thursday night _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye-- Vermilion Catholic puts a heavy pass rush and blocks this pass by Highland Baptist quarterback Luke Hayes on Sept. 24.

The bustling community of Youngsville will be at the epicenter of one of the state’s top Class 1A games this week.

Three weeks into District 7-1A play three teams — Vermilion Catholic, Ascension Episcopal and Central Catholic of Morgan City — have established themselves as the frontrunners for the league’s title.

The district race will begin to take shape Friday when No. 4 Vermilion Catholic (4-1, 2-0) visits No. 5 Ascension Episcopal (5-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. with Highland Baptist (4-1, 1-1) visiting Central Catholic (5-0, 2-0).

“They’re an all-around good football team, and we’re going to have to play well defensively to stop them,” VC coach Russell Kuhns said of AES. “They’re aggressive, and we’ll have to meet force with force. We’re going to have to be ready to play.”

District 5-2A features a marquee game Thursday with Loreauville (4-1, 1-1) visiting Catholic-New Iberia (3-2, 2-0). Breaux Bridge (3-2) also hosts St. Martinville (3-2) on Thursday in the District 5-4A opener for both.

“Without a doubt, for us to make those games down the road mean something and for us to have a chance at a district title, we’re going to need to take care of business on Thursday,” Catholic-NI coach Brent Indest said.

Action on Friday will be highlighted by Abbeville (3-2) visiting Cecilia (4-1) in a 5-4A opener, DeRidder (4-1) visiting No. 6 Crowley (5-0) in a 3-4A opener and No. 7 Church Point (4-1) entertaining Port Barre (4-1) in a 5-3A opener.

“I told the kids that it’s really cool that we’re going into the sixth game and we have something to play for,” Abbeville coach Gary Adkins said.

Vermilion Catholic-Ascension Episcopal: Vermilion Catholic, which won the 2013 state title and advanced to the Division IV quarterfinals a year ago, has emphatically bounced back from a Week 2 loss to Kaplan with three straight victories.

The Eagles outscored their opponents 160-62 during that stretch, including a 54-0 shutout of Hanson Memorial on Friday.

“We didn’t play very well, and Kaplan had a lot to do with it,” Kuhns said. “Sometimes you need that to refocus and figure out you’ve got to play every week.”

LOREAUVILLE-CATHOLIC-NEW IBERIA: Catholic, which lost to Calvary Baptist in last year’s Division III state title game, has responded from a 1-2 record, which included a 42-41 home loss to Patterson.

The Panthers have taken that frustration out on District 5-2A, outscoring their first two opponents 109-14 and were impressive Friday in a 42-6 victory over Delcambre.

Running back Seth Pierre led the way with 16 carries for 97 yards and three first-half touchdowns. The Panthers utilized 11 ball carriers in the game.

“We’re definitely better than we were a couple of weeks ago,” Indest said. “We’ve still got a ways to go. We’re not throwing the ball well enough to keep people off of us.”

ABBEVILLE-CECILIA: Despite having a health scare in which Adkins begins treatment in a couple of weeks for cancer in his left tonsil, Abbeville’s continues to make positive strides.

Adkins took over a program in July after the Wildcats had gone 1-19 the past two seasons.

Abbeville’s third victory of the season didn’t come easy, scoring both of its touchdowns in a 14-7 victory in the first half against North Vermilion.

Defensive back Dominick Nunez returned an interception for Abbeville’s first score, while quarterback Demarcus Collins and running back Jose Pedroza connected for a 48-yard TD pass.

“The kids were real excited,” Adkins said. “We’ve got some good opponents coming up, and we’ll see where we stand.

“We’re going to work hard, go to Cecilia and see what happens.”