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Terriers hope team unity leads to success


Key returning starters for the Vandebilt Catholic Terriers are junior tight end/defensive end Chase Hawthorne (80), senior quarterback Eli McGuire (15), senior running back Aaron Smith (28), junior defensive back Jordan Bergeron (30) and junior linebacker Tristan Guillory (24). (Photo by Chris Singleton/Staff)


Before the start of fall camp this season, the coaches and players on Vandebilt Catholic's football team gathered on campus for an old-fashioned boot camp.

Every player on the team spent five days in July living on the school's campus. They participated in workouts and drills, watched practice film, lifted weights, studied playbooks together and spent time together in other team-related activities.

The boot camp might sound like punishment to some, but Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso said the objective behind it was more than that.

"We built a lot of camaraderie with the players," Villavaso said. "It really went well. We had an opportunity to meet with the guys and do a lot of chalk talk and hang out. It was really good for our team."

As the Terriers prepare for the upcoming season, they hope the lessons they learned during the boot camp will lead them to success.

"The boot camp helped us come together more as a team," Vandebilt junior free safety Jordan Bergeron said. "We got to know each other better than we ever did. We developed that swagger that we need to come out and be dominate on the field, so it's a good deal with that."

Vandebilt went 5-6 overall last year and made it to the Class 4A bi-regional round of the playoffs, where it suffered a 46-0 loss to Breaux Bridge.

When former coach and current school athletic director Laury Dupont retired after the season, Villavaso was promoted from assistant to head coach.

It is Villavaso's second stint as Vandebilt's coach. He previously served as a head coach from 1996-2006, leading the Terriers to a 51-54 record in that span.

Now he will lead a Vandebilt team of 87 players on the field this season.

"I'm looking forward to being the head coach again," Villavaso said. "It's been awhile since I've been on the sideline making all the decisions. It's going to be fun."

After serving as an assistant coach for the last three seasons, Villavaso said the coaching transition has gone smoothly.

"I think I have an advantage that other first-year coaches don't have," he said. "I've been here for three years. I know all the kids and what we are capable of doing."

Villavaso will guide a team that has 14 returning starters (seven on offense and defense each).

The Terriers offense, which will be led by new offensive coordinator and former longtime Terrebonne High coach Pat Kee, will be based out multiple formation, which will feature pieces of the pistol and wildcat offenses.

Leading the Terriers' offense will be standout senior quarterback Elijah McGuire, who missed most of his junior season with a toe and hand injury. McGuire, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2010, said he is ready to show everyone he is back this season.

"It's my senior year, and I feel stronger than ever," McGuire said. "I feel like I've never been hurt before. I'm ready to have a good season this year. I have to do what I've got to do and handle my business. I've got a lot of goals to accomplish."

Villavaso said McGuire, who is getting major looks from Division I colleges, is a playmaker who opens up a lot for other players in the Terriers' offense.

"He's just a really good football player, but most of all, he's a great kid," Villavaso said. "He is a team player, and he's going to do everything he can to help our team win."

Other key offensive players for the Terriers are senior fullback Aaron Smith and junior tight end Chase Hawthorne.

Smith was Vandebilt's leading rusher last season with 753 yards and seven touchdowns, but he missed several games near the end of the season with a leg injury.

Hawthorne, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound target, played defensive end last season before moving to tight end in spring practice. He is expected to play both offense and defense.

With a variety of weapons on offense, McGuire said Vandebilt could chalk up a lot of yards this season.

"We've been running a lot of veer and option," McGuire said. "I think the offense we run will be hard to stop. We have two good backs in me and Aaron Smith. The defenses don't know who to key on this season."

Defensively, Vandebilt returns seven players in its 4-3 scheme.

Villavaso, who was the team's defensive coordinator last season, said the Terriers want to continue their reputation of being an aggressive defense.

"We've got to get guys running to the football," Villavaso said. "We have a lot of guys coming back. We expect our defense to be solid this year. If we can stay away from injuries, I think we'll be solid on defense."

Several key players on Vandebilt's defense are Bergeron, junior linebacker Tristan Guillory and senior defensive end Kevin Gordon.

Guillory, who switched from running back to linebacker, is confident in the defense's ability to stop opponents.

"We don't have the best talent, but we have a lot of hard workers on the defense," Guillory said. "I think we got enough to get it done."

The Terriers' kicking and punting duties will be handled by senior Grant Rodriguez.

After completing a tough nondistrict schedule, the Terriers will compete in District 8-4A with Assumption, Ellender, South Terrebonne and Morgan City.

Vandebilt, which went 2-2 in 8-4A play last season, hasn't won a district title since 2002, and the players said they want to end that streak.

"We want to go 10-0 and win district," Smith said. "I guarantee we're going to win district. We want to give it 110 percent every game, from the first quarter to the fourth quarter."

If they play with determination and effort, Villavaso said the Terriers have a chance to go far this season.

"I hope the kids play hard, and they've been doing that in practice," he said. "We've been successful in the things that we are doing. They know their assignments and what they have to do. Hopefully we have enough ammunition to win some football games and continue to get better."