Editor's note: This is the 15th in a 30-day series highlighting high school football teams in the Acadiana area. Up next are the Eunice Bobcats.
WHAT WE KNOW
The Bobcats won the Class 3A state championship with a 59-47 win over Sterlington in December in a shootout for the ages. It was the first state championship for longtime coach Paul Trosclair’s career. Eunice moves into Class 4A this season, playing in District 4 alongside Washington-Marion, North Vermilion, Rayne, and LaGrange.
Defense was Eunice’s calling card throughout the playoff run, but it was the offense that had to step up in a gigantic way in the Superdome to claim Eunice’s first state championship since 1982.
The Bobcats list six returning starters from last season’s offense, but that number is technically seven with converted tight end Dylan Darbonne, the younger brother of two-way standout Tyler Darbonne, moving into his big brother’s position after starting at center last season.
That unit is currently far ahead of the defense thanks to the returning experience. Junior starting quarterback Simeon Ardoin is back for an encore after a first half when it could be said he was Eunice's top player.
Ardoin is backed by two returning junior backs, twin brother Deon Ardoin and wingback Jeoul Hill. Both starting tackles return, junior Draay Savoy and 280-pound senior Lane Devillier. Even new starting wide receiver Treylon Cooper saw significant snaps last season as well.
Offense will have to carry the Bobcats early if they are to repeat the “Bobcat Magic” in 4A.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Eunice needs to replace most of its defense. However, it does return senior defensive end Jordan Oglesby and senior safety Gavin Higginbotham. The 220-pound Oglesby is going to lead a defense that is long on athletes but short on experience.
Among the bigger departures on defense, aside from Tyler Darbonne, are defensive back Carlin Vigers and linebacker Avery Lee. Vigers was the Defensive MVP of District 5-3A, while Lee was named the Class 3A Defensive MVP on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association's All-State team.
Two more key two-way players, wide receiver/defensive back Jordet Ledet and offensive linemen/linebacker Brodi Walker, have graduated. It's clear the Bobcats have a healthy amount to replace.
The kicking game is also a gigantic question mark for the Bobcats. All-district place-kicker Austin Phillips has graduated, and Lee did the punting for Eunice last year. Trosclair said a lack of recreational soccer forces Eunice to develop kickers and punters, and he is unsure who will take the reins currently.
HOW WE SEE IT
Despite having to replace multiple all-state performers on defense, Eunice should still be considered the favorite in the new-look 4-4A. However, the development of the defense will have to come quickly as Eunice plays a tough nondistrict schedule that includes Northwest, Jennings and Breaux Bridge in the first four weeks.
But the returning offensive talent, specifically the three juniors in the backfield, should make the Bobcats a tough out come playoff time. Preparing for the Wing-T is always a headache for opposing coaching staffs, and Trosclair has proven to have a few tricks up his sleeves to boot.
Eunice's returners have proven they knows how to win in the postseason. Even with the jump in classification, that can't be ignored.
Sept. 13: versus Jennings
A longtime rival, the Bobcats are always eager to battle the Bulldogs in the early season. Add to that Jennings has multiple Division I prospects this season, and Eunice will have to be at the top of its game early.
The matchup with the Bulldogs is also one of four 3A opponents the Bobcats will play before district play and comes after the season opener against Northwest, a former league foe. Games against familiar opponents should help Eunice get off to a solid start before the transition to 4A competition.
“This jump to Class 4A will be difficult for us. We’re playing a Class 4A schedule with Class 3A depth. Most 4A schools probably have five or 10 extra guys on both sides of the ball who can jump in and be ready to contribute. It makes a big difference.” — Paul Trosclair
QB Simeon Ardoin, 5-9, 160, Jr.
A true dual-threat quarterback, Ardoin erased all doubts about his passing as last season progressed. When asked what he’s done to take the next step, Trosclair complimented his quarterback’s desire to put in the extra work even when he was not asked. Ardoin’s leadership as he heads into his second year as the starting quarterback will be important.
FB Deon Ardoin, 5-9. 175, Jr.
Simeon’s twin brother is the quieter and more bruising of the duo. Running bigger than his stature, Deon rolled up more than 1,000 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns last season. He’ll be the bell cow back in the Bobcats' tried-and-true Wing-T.
T Lane Devillier, 6-3, 280, Sr.
Trosclair describes Devillier as “everything you could want in an offensive tackle.” He’s big, strong, has great technique and carries tremendous awareness on the field. Eunice plans to run it as much as possible with its stable of backs, and Devillier will be there to pave holes for them.
WR Treylon Cooper, 5-9, 150, Jr.
Cooper will be asked to take the top off of defenses and get them out of the box. Trosclair shows faith in his ability, saying he isn’t afraid to go up and get the ball despite his stature. Cooper’s quickness on the outside will be crucial to providing balance to the Bobcats attack.
DE Jordan Oglesby, 6-0, 220, Sr.
The disrupter on the Bobcats defensive line, Oglesby had seven sacks last season and possesses the talent to wreak havoc in multiple ways. His 4.8 40-yard dash will provide Eunice speed off the edge. But his game isn’t all quickness, as the 400-pound squatter has the upper and lower-body strength to take blockers straight on and stuff the run as well.
Head coach: Paul Trosclair
20 Ville Platte
27 BREAUX BRIDGE
1 North Vermilion*
8 LAGRANGE**--denotes district gameHOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
Beat Opelousas 53-26
Beat Jennings 33-23
Beat RAYNE 36-14
Beat Crowley 36-32
Lost CHURCH POINT 22-20
Beat Port Barre 30-0
Beat PINE PRAIRIE 35-6
Beat MAMOU 49-12
Beat Northwest 37-14
Lost Iota 35-34
Beat Brusly 34-20
Beat Wossman 13-12
Beat Madison Prep 41-12
Beat Kaplan 19-0
Beat Sterlington 59-47
LAST FIVE SEASONS
2018: 13-2 (state champion)
Key losses: FB/LB Avery Lee, WR/DB Carlin Vigers, TE/DL Tyler Darbonne, OL/LB Brodi Walker, WR/DB Jordan Ledet, OL Zac Joubert, PK Austin Phillips
Base offense: Wing-T
Base defense: 3-4
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
TE Dylan Darbonne (6-1, 220, Soph.)
WR Treylon Cooper (5-9, 150, Jr.)
OT Draay Savoy (5-10, 230, Jr.)*
OG Evan Fruge (5-7, 175, Sr.)
C Landon Fruge (5-9, 205, Sr.)
OG Noah Courville (5-9, 205, Sr.)
OT Lane Deviller (6-3, 280, Sr.)*
QB Simeon Ardoin (5-9, 160, Jr.)*
WB Jeoul Hill (5-9, 165, Jr.)*
FB Deon Ardoin (5-9, 175, Jr.)*
WB Devin Richardson (5-8, 155, Sr)
DE Jordan Oglesby (6-0, 220, Sr.)*
NG Myles Woods (6-1, 265, Soph.)
DE Draay Savoy (6-0, 235, Jr.)
LB Jacoby Collins (6-0, 160, Jr.)
LB Noah Courville (5-9, 205, Sr.)
SS Devin Richardson (5-8, 150, Sr.)
SS Bryce Poullard (5-8, 160, Jr.)
CB Dylan Guillory (5-9, 170, Jr.)
CB Terrance Tezeno (5-8, 155, Sr.)
FS Gavin Higginbotham (5-8, 160, Sr.)*
FS Jaheim Mitchell (5-11, 160, Jr.)
*--denotes returning starter