Tigers road to the playoffs filled with tough opponents
By: SCOTT JOINER
Morgan City’s football team will face its toughest test since the season opener against Comeaux with a trip to South Terrebonne tonight in the second game of District 8-4A play.
The Gators have received votes in the LSWA Class 4A poll for the past few weeks but have the same 5-2 record as the Tigers.
Morgan City features the top running back in the district, Eric Walker, with 132 carries for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns.
South Terrebonne has two runners of similar quality in Jaquis Flores (86 carries for 716 yards and six TDs) and Trevon Smith (64 carries, 502 yards and nine TDs) that will be a challenge for the Tigers to stop.
“We’ve been working on what we’ve seen on film from them,” MCHS coach Brandon Nowlin said. “Sometimes this year we’ve had guys there to make plays but we’ve missed them. We’ve got to be sure tacklers this week. We’ve got to be able to hold point at the line of scrimmage. Basically, we have to stop the run first. There is no doubt about it.”
It’s not all-run for the Gators with Smith starting at quarterback. He’s thrown for 569 yards on 39-for-72 passing with five touchdowns and four interceptions.
“They have the ability to throw the football,” Nowlin said. “The quarterback, I think, is a three-year starter for them. They have one or two guys that can definitely hurt you getting down the field with their vertical speed. (Dalvin Richardson) is a real long receiver; he can go up and get it if he needs to. (Flores) is somebody they try to get the ball to in the running game, in play action stuff or just straight throwing the football.”
Richardson is the second-ranked wideout in the district with 23 catches for 273 yards for three touchdowns.
Morgan City’s Austin Stroud leads the district with 483 yards on 28 catches for seven touchdowns.
Stroud’s speed will be a key factor tonight with the Gators’ defense playing two deep safeties that will force the Tigers to beat them with yards after the catch rather than long throws downfield.
“They sit in their two-safety shell and try to make you drive the ball and hope you mess up on 10-, 11- or 12-play drives,” Nowlin said. “It’s going to be key for our offensive line to come off the football this week and our backs to break some tackles here and there.”
Morgan City has had mixed success on long drives this season with several stalling in the red zone, resulting in turnovers after failed fourth downs.
The Tigers will need to convert those fourth downs tonight to have a chance against a tough Gators defense.
“Their defense is designed to not give up the big play,” Nowlin said. “They’re going to try and force you to throw the ball outside. They’ve got some good interior linemen and linebackers — that’s probably the strength of their team. They’re going to make you work for it.”
MCHS quarterback Hoang Nguyen has been efficient this season and is tied with Assumption’s Hunter Gauthreaux with 67 completions each to lead the district. Nguyen has thrown for 880 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Accuracy will be key against the style employed by the STHS defense.
The Tigers are currently No. 26 in the unofficial power rankings. With a 32-team playoff field, the resurgent MCHS needs at least one more win in the next three weeks to secure a spot in the post season bracket.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us on the road after being home for two weeks against a very, very good opponent,” Nowlin said. “They’re a well-coached, physical ball club and we’ve struggled with teams like that at times this year. The question is, who is going to play the cleanest football game this week? When we can limit our errors and penalties we’ve had a lot of success this season. Hopefully we can do that (tonight).”