The end of the 2018 high school football season left a bad taste in the mouths of the Thibodaux Tigers.
With a 3-7 overall record, the Tigers missed the Class 5A state playoffs for the first time since 2012.
It left the returning Tigers determined to bounce back for the upcoming season.
"It made us very hungry because we were the first team in a very long time not to make it to the playoffs last year, so we’re very hungry," senior defensive back Tyren Young said. "We worked hard the whole summer. We’re ready. We feel like we can go as far as we want to as a team. Nobody is stopping us but ourselves really."
Thibodaux coach Chris Dugas said a couple of misfortunes with a young inexperienced roster and injuries derailed the 2018 season. The Tigers started with a 3-1 record last year before losing six in a row to close things out.
Several of the injured players were key starters such as quarterback junior Luke Alleman (torn ACL), junior running back Ferronte Miller (broken collarbone) and senior linebacker Hunter Trosclair (neck injury).
"That was a shot to the heart for a football team last year, but we persevered and we tried to make the best out of the situation that we had," Dugas said. "We are hoping now with our numbers back up and with the guys healthy and experienced now, that it translates into a lot more wins for us this season."
Dugas said the Tigers committed themselves in the weight room during the summer to improve their conditioning.
"It was not a typical Thibodaux year for us to go 3-7," Dugas said. "That kind of put a chip a little bit on our kids’ shoulders in the offseason with conditioning. We had a great summer. The kids participated in it and worked hard. It kind of gives us a little momentum going into the season. The kids are excited, and the coaching staff is excited, so I think it’s going to be a pretty good year."
Although the memories from last year still sting at times, Alleman said the Tigers are ready to take advantage of a fresh start this season.
"We can’t dwell on last year," Alleman said. "We’ve got to put that in the past and focus on this year."
In their spread offensive attack, Alleman will have a variety of weapons to get the ball to this season, including Miller and senior receivers Kyren Lacy, Darwin Davis and Maurquel Price. Young, a multi-talented athlete who plays mostly as a defensive back, will be used in various offensive packages as a receiver and possibly quarterback this year.
The Tigers also return four offensive linemen from last year.
"We’ve got a veteran team coming back," Dugas said. "Last year we were extremely young. We had a lot of sophomores and juniors cutting their cleats out there for the first time. In years past, those would’ve been some jv guys for us. This year we’re looking at about 22 seniors. We have a lot more leadership out there, which is going to be good for us."
Lacy, a Louisiana-Lafayette commit, said the Tigers will have more leadership this season.
"We’re very excited. We’re not worried about what the outsiders say," Lacy said. "We’ve become a brotherhood inside and outside of the weight room. I think it’s going to pay off on the field. We’re just bringing everything together."
Thibodaux’s 4-3 defense will have several hard hitters back in Trosclair, senior linebacker Khalil Brisco, senior defensive backs Maurquel Price and Joshua Holden and junior defensive back Rolaun Richard.
"There is a whole bunch of guys back with experience now," Dugas said. "We’ve just got to get those guys to gel as a unit and 11 hats to the football. I think we’re going to be really good defensively."
Thibodaux allowed 40 or more points five times last season.
"We’re not doing that this year," Brisco said. "No more 50 points or 40 points. None of that."
"We don’t want to give up any more yards," Trosclair added. "Running backs watch out. That’s all I’ve got to say."
And Thibodaux’s senior class is confident it will return to the playoff this season. Several of the players were members of Thibodaux’s first-ever Class 5A state championship basketball team this year and they said they want to continue that momentum into the upcoming football season.
"We’ve got good athletes on both sides of the ball," said Davis, who played basketball and football last season for Thibodaux. "I feel sorry for every other team that has to play us. We’re just like that this year. We’ve got a dominant offense with receivers, running backs and our line is better this year. I feel like we’re ready."