HOUMA, La. — Not much seemed to go right for Morgan City Friday night as the Vandebilt Catholic Terriers overwhelmed them in a 40-7 District 8-4A victory.
While the Terriers (8-1 overall, 3-0 in district) entered the game with the state’s leading rusher, quarterback Elijah McGuire, who had amassed more than 1,600 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, it was teammate Aaron Smith who the Tigers received a heavy dose of Friday.
Smith rushed for 176 yards in the victory and scored twice.
“We got to find ways to do things with other guys,” Vandebilt Catholic coach Brad Villavaso said of Friday’s offensive approach. “Aaron stepped up for us. He was running the ball really well, and we just felt like giving the ball to Aaron, because of the way he was running the ball, was the best thing for us for the season … Elijah’s a gamer, man, and when we want to give him the ball, we give him the ball, and he does a good job with it.”
The Terriers scored on all six of their first-half offensive drives as the Tigers, for the second week in a row, had no answer for their opponents’ ground game.
“All the credit to Vandebilt,” Morgan City coach Brandon Nowlin said. “They played an exceptional ball game. I think we made it a little bit easier than it probably should have (been) early in the game and really didn’t give ourselves a chance to compete in this ballgame like we should.”
The Tigers (4-4, 0-3), who have been potent at times on offense this year, could not do much against the Terriers until the second half with the game already in hand.
The Terriers limited the Tigers to minus 13 yards of total offense and one first down in the first half.
The Tigers finished the game with 106 yards of total offense (67 rushing and 39 passing) and six first downs.
While Smith had the big night for the Terriers, McGuire scored the first touchdown via a 14-yard run with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter to cap a five-play, 56-yard drive.
Smith gained much of the yardage on the Terrier’s second drive, but Gage Corte capped it with a 2-yard run for a 14-0 Vandebilt Catholic lead with 48 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
The Terriers would strike less than two minutes later as Morgan City punter Sergize Flores could not get a punt off following a faulty snap and fumbled the ball, which Vandebilt recovered at its own 2-yard line.
Smith scored his first touchdown on the first offensive play of the drive and after a missed extra point, Vandebilt Catholic led 20-0.
Corte would score another Terrier touchdown while Smith broke off a 60-yard run later in the quarter and Bailey Pere hit Chase Hutchinson for a 9-yard pass with 14 seconds remaining in the half for a 40-0 Vandebilt lead.
“We had I think about 30 and change dressed out tonight, and we had a good bit of them out there playing their hearts out, but we got to get a little more mentally tough and physically tough … I got to do a better job as a coach. Our staff has to do a better job,” Nowlin said.
Playing with a running clock in the second half, the Terriers had the ball the entire third quarter, but the Tigers would not let them get in the end zone as Pere was stopped on fourth down at the Morgan City 7 on the first play of the fourth.
Morgan City put its points on the board later in the fourth quarter on its last possession, a nice 90-yard drive that featured a 28-yard run by freshman Jacolbi Francois on the drive’s first play as well as a 23-yard dash by Morgan City quarterback Hoang Nguyen on a fourth down play when he broke free after he initially appeared to be wrapped up.
On the next play, Nguyen completed a 21-yard pass to Jalen Jones down to the Vandebilt 13.
After a 5-yard penalty pushed the Tigers back to the Vandebilt 18, Nguyen threw three straight incompletions before finally finding Luke Marino for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 5 seconds remaining in the contest.
Flores’ extra point was good for the final.
“I think in every game that we’ve played this year, we’ve always kept competing,” Nowlin said. “We’ve always tried to just go out and win the next play … Our kids, they don’t give up within the course of a game. They keep competing, and it was good to try and put one in there at the end.
“I think our quarterback played his heart out as he always does,” Nowlin continued. “He’s not the only one, but he stands out. It was good to see Jacolbi Francois break a few runs there in the second half but as a whole, we just got to do a lot better if we want to have a chance to compete next week.”
Francois led the Morgan City run game with nine carries for 52 yards.
The Tigers will close their 2012 season when they host Assumption High Friday.
Houmatoday contributed to this story.