When you watch Friday’s season opener between Acadiana and Carencro at the Cro Dome — two old district rivals that have played 42 times since 1970 — you’ll see two teams that mirror each other now more so than ever.
It’s one thing that so many of the players on both teams have grown up playing with or against each other in youth and junior high football. That’s always been the case. The Lafayette Parish schools are only 20 minutes apart, and the familiar nature of the rivalry has led to intense games that go down to the wire.
But with Gavin Peters, in his second year as the Bears offensive coordinator after holding the same position with the Wreckin’ Rams, both teams now run the split-back veer.
When either team has the ball, it will look similar: The offensive line will start with their knees on their hands and, just before the quarterback calls for the ball, the line will quickly get down in a three-point stance. Ball carriers in the veer, who also start with their hands on their knees before getting in a three-point stance, are often at the second or third level before defenses know what hit them.
Preparing for the intricacies of the veer’s blocking schemes is difficult to do in a week’s time, so needless to say, opposing coaches loathe facing it. With so many teams attempting to modernize their offenses, the veer has stood the test the time on the high school level.
While Carencro third-year coach Tony Courville is certainly grateful to have Peters on his staff, the Bear’ shift to the veer is less about utilizing a specific offense — or looking like Acadiana, for that matter. It’s about the Bears returning to what gave them so much success when Courville was a part of Mac Barousse’s staff in the 1990s — being a smash-mouth team that can run the ball on anyone.
Carencro, which features four three-year starters on the offensive line, doesn’t even run plays exclusively out of the split-back formation.
“They’ve got multiple formations besides the original split-back veer,” said Acadiana second-year coach Matt McCullough, who is also utilizing different formations, like the inverted wishbone, while still running the same veer plays. “They do some other stuff. They get in one-back and different things. I think they’re doing a good job of getting off the ball, and they’ve got some really good backs. I think their offense looked good in the scrimmage and in the jamboree.”
Courville has wanted to be a run-heavy team since he took over in June 2017, and the Bears were in the process of doing that when Kevin Faulk — the best player in school history — was the offensive coordinator.
In Courville’s first season, Carencro struggled to find an offensive identity. Much of that was because of youth on the offensive line, which included three freshmen and a sophomore.
Almost out of necessity, the Bears attempted to move to Wing T offense in the middle of the season. Carencro ran the Wing T under Brent Indest, including when it won the state championship in 2011, Carencro’s offensive line coach at the time, Joey Dwyer, coached under Indest.
But the results with the Wing T in 2017 were mixed, as the Bears finished 3-7 with a first-round playoff exit. Then Faulk accepted the director of player development job at his alma mater, LSU, after the 2017 season concluded.
That created an opportunity for Peters.
“I think he’s a coaching machine,” Courville said of Peters. “I admired him from afar. I liked the way he carries himself on and off the field. He’s just a damn ball coach. He eats and breathes football.
“He’s still family guy. But especially for a young man at that age, especially a black male, he’s an extra role model with my guys too.”
It’s easy to see why Faulk, before taking the position at LSU, was willing to transition to a run-first approach. After all, Faulk and several other tailbacks after him flourished with the Bears utilizing a triple-option offense out of the I-formation. In 1992, when Carencro won its lone state championship, Faulk was the starting quarterback as a sophomore with Derrick Beavers and Ernest Lazard lining up behind him.
Coincidentally, Carencro’s starting quarterback this season is Kevin Faulk’s nephew, 6-foot, 175-pound junior Tavion Faulk. The veer is essentially a triple-option style of offense.
“At that time, you had to pick your poison — who you wanted to beat you,” Courville said. “They would try to take away the other two. In ‘92, I think we all three backs over 1,500 yards when we won a state championship.”
So how big is the matchup between the Nos. 2 and 9 teams in The Acadiana Advocate’s Super 10 rankings? It’s still just a nondistrict game, Courville maintains but having it as the season opener adds to the hype.
“When Matt and decided to do this, we knew it would be a special game Week 1 for everyone," Courville said. "Our season won’t end if it doesn’t go our way, but it definitely could be a big momentum-getter for us too.”
GAME OF THE WEEK
Acadiana at Carencro
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday at the Cro Dome
Radio: 1420 AM and 105.9 FM
Records: ACA 0-0; CAR 0-0
Rankings: ACA No. 7 in 5A, No. 2 in area; CAR unranked in 4A; No. 9 in area
Last season: ACA 11-2, lost in quarterfinals to Zachary; CAR 5-6, lost in first round to Assumption
Last meeting: ACA won 20-13 in 2018
Top players: ACA — HB Dillan Monette (5-7, 170, Sr.), HB Lucky Brooks (5-10, 260, Sr.), QB Keontae Williams (5-10, 180, Sr.), DE Thaos Figaro (6-2, 220, Jr.), LB Derreck Bercier (5-9, 195, Jr.), FS Ian Montz (6-2, 175, Jr.); CAR — OG Zavione Willis (5-10, 235, Sr.) QB Tavion Faulk (6-0, 175, Jr.), HB Kendrell Williams (6-0, 195, Jr.), FS Ra’shad Onezime (6-1, 185, Sr.), HB Traylon Prejean (5-6, 190, Jr.), CB Bailey Despanie (6-2, 170, Jr.)