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Thibodaux sets sights on getting back to playoffs


Senior offensive lineman (73) Benjimin Johnson, junior wide receiver Jason Richard (1), junior running back Donta Johnson (4) and senior defensive lineman Kantrell Duncan (54) are some of the key players for the Thibodaux Tigers this season. (Photo by Brent St. Germain/Staff)


The Thibodaux Tigers have a simple goal for the 2012 season.

They want to get back to the Class 5A state playoffs.

Thibodaux is looking to end a two-year playoff drought this season. The Tigers have not been to the playoffs since reaching the 5A quarterfinals in 2009.

"I'm very excited about the season because we want to get back to the playoffs," junior wide receiver Jason Richard said. "We haven't been there in the past few seasons, and we are trying to get back on the right track. We had a good spring, and it showed that we are all ready to get back to playing football."

Thibodaux struggled last season, finishing with a 2-8 overall record and a 2-4 mark in District 7-5A.

Injuries and inexperience played a role in the Tigers' struggles last season, forcing many underclassmen into action.

Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas said the experience those younger players gained can go a long way during the upcoming season.

"We have a lot of sophomores and juniors from last year who are now juniors and seniors this year," Dugas said. "We also had a big freshmen class last year, so we are looking forward to having a big sophomore class. We are really excited about our younger kids that are now a year older. Many of those kids got some valuable game experience as they were thrust into action last year."

One of the younger players the Tigers will be counting on this season is junior running back Donta Johnson. As a sophomore, Johnson was the top running backs in District 7-5A and was a first-team all-district selection.

"We are excited to have him back," Dugas said. "He had a great spring and a great summer, and it has carried over into the fall. He is only a junior, so we are excited to have him for the next two seasons."

Johnson said he is ready to have another big season and is eagerly anticipating the season opener against L.W. Higgins on Aug. 31.

"We are really excited to get the season started," he said. "We feel like we are going to be good this season. We are going to see how many of our guys are going to be ready to play this season."

While the Tigers will be set at the skill positions, that is not the case at quarterback as two players — senior Blade Martinez and junior Wesley Lassaire — are vying for the starting spot. Both saw limited time at quarterback last season.

But the biggest hole to fill is on defense, as linebacker Trey Granier graduated and signed a national letter-of-intent with LSU. Granier was a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

Although Granier missed most of the season with an injury, Dugas said the team will miss his leadership on and off the field.

"Of course, losing a guy like Trey Granier hurts anybody's program," Dugas said. "When you have an LSU commitment gone from your program, it hurts, but we are looking for those youngsters that gained some experience at that spot last season to step it up."

Although losing a player of Granier's caliber is tough for any team, it gave the Thibodaux coaches a chance to see some of the younger players in action.

Dugas said the game experience the younger players gained last season can go along way in 2012.

"That's always a plus when you have young guys with some varsity-game experience," he said. "We also have some kids that were at the JV level that are going to be stepping up and we saw good things out of in the workouts. Just having those guys with varsity experience from last year is going to be big."

Senior offensive lineman Benjimin Johnson said the younger players appear to be hungry and ready for the upcoming season.

"I've been on this team since I was a freshman, and I've seen and experienced a lot in that time," Johnson said. "From what I've seen, this is going to be one of our better groups. I think we have a chance to do very good this year."

Last season was a learning experience for Dugas as he adjusted to being a head coach for the first time.

Dugas said he made some mistakes last season as a first-year head coach, but he learned a lot from that experience. He believes it could help Thibodaux end a two-year playoff drought.

"That's our goal. Our goal is not an undefeated season or district championships. Our goal is getting back to the playoffs, and no matter how we get there, that's where we want to be at the end of the year … in the Top 32," Dugas said.

For the Tigers to accomplish their goal, senior defensive lineman Kantrell Duncan said the team leaders will have to do their job.

"The leaders of this team — me, Donta, Jason and Ben — are looking to step up this season," Duncan said. "We are working hard to lead the team back to the playoffs. We are starving to get back to the playoffs.

"I'm anxious to get this season started. I've been ready since the end of last season. This is my senior year, and I'm ready for it," Duncan added.