One-loss Thibodaux awaits Wildcats

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2014


RESERVE — East St. John seeks a strong performance and a victory Friday night to rebound from a tough loss at home to rival Hahnville last week. Nothing about it figures to come easy.

That’s because the Wildcats will travel to Thibodaux to face a veteran Tigers team already boasting victories over Hahnville and Shaw, and one that pushed District 7-5A leader Destrehan further than any other team this season.

Last season, ESJ held on at home, a late defensive stop cementing a 30-25 victory.

Much has changed since then, admitted ESJ coach Phillip Banko.

“The script has flipped,” Banko said. “We were the senior-laden team last year. That’s Thibodaux now. “They run the ball very well. When we beat them, that’s what we did well. We still do, but that’s the way that game shook out. Most people probably have them as the favorite. Heck, Vegas called me and told me the Wildcats are the underdogs this time around.”

Offensively, the straw that stirs the drink for Thibodaux (6-1, 3-1) is quarterback Peyton Bonvillain, who can challenge a defense down the field while also standing as a major running threat, either on scrambles or the zone read.

Last week, Bonvillain sat out and rested an injury, with backup Trey LeBlanc playing in his stead. But Banko expects to see Bonvillian this week.

“He’s one of the better quarterbacks we’ll face,” Banko said. “And they make it hard to get to him.”

Tigers running back Jayquan Chenier, meanwhile, comes off of a 200-yard performance in Thibodaux’s 40-7 victory against Terrebonne. Thibodaux rushed for 324 yards in the performance and gained 385 overall.

Defensively, the Tigers are stout. After allowing 30 points in their season-opening win over Shaw, Thibodaux has allowed 23 points or less in each of their games, including four games of 17 or less.

Currently, East St. John (4-3, 3-1) sits at No. 23 in the Class 5A power rankings. Thibodaux is 12th. With multiple teams in the Top 23 ticketed for the Division I select postseason, however, the Wildcats are very much in the mix to host a first round game for the second straight year.