Cougars face undefeated Vermilion Catholic in second round playoff action

The Creek defense swarms a Slaughter Charter Community ball carrier in its first round win last Friday night. (Photo by Darrell James)

by Malcolm Butler

Cedar Creek has played a formidable schedule at times this year.

The Cougars have lined up against the likes of OCS, Glenbrook, St. Frederick, Winnfield, and Vidalia.They are no stranger to stiff competition.

Friday night at 7 p.m. in Abbeville, head coach Matt Middleton and Co. will face arguably their biggest test when they square off against No. 1 seed and undefeated Vermilion Catholic in the second round of the Select Division IV playoffs.

Middleton thinks the experiences from playing some top-notch competition has prepared his Cougars for what they will face.

“We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Middleton. “We will let it all hang out. There is nothing better than playing football on Turkey Week. 

“We have played some good football teams too. We have lost to some good ones. There are a few games we would like back. We played three teams that had first round byes last week (OCS, Glenbrook, St. Frederick). Vidalia and Winnfield are really good. Delhi is rolling; they smoked John Ehret last week. So we have played some really good teams this year.”

According to Middleton — and the scoreboard — Vermilion Catholic (10-0) is the real deal.

“They are a good football team,” he said. “They are the No. 1 seed for a reason.”

Offensively, they are averaging 43.5 points per game. They haven’t scored fewer than 28 all year, and VM has eclipsed 43 points in six straight contests.  The Creek defense led by the likes of Quincy Lewis, Lawson Lillo and Lane Thomas has its work cut out for it.

“They are electric on offense. They have two running backs that are really good,” said Middleton. “They have a quarterback that is a sophomore that is a power read guy. He can flat out role. They want to run the football. That’s what they want to do.

“They are high scoring. Most people say you have to play keep away. No. I am going to try to score points however we can and see where the chips fall.”

Scoring points.

As big of a challenge as stopping Vermilion Catholics offense is, trying to score on its defense … well that has been next to impossible for opponents in 2022.

The Eagles have allowed a total of 37 points in 10 games with 24 of those coming in week No. 2 against Ascension Episcopal. They have recorded seven shutouts in 10 games.

“I think their strength is their defense,” said Middleton. They are really good. They are the real deal, and they have the right dudes at the right spots. They can flat out run.

“They bring a lot of pressure. Slant up front. Bring (line)backers. You name it. There is someone it seems like in the backfield all the time. They get after you. They have so much speed on the back end. They rally to the ball. They don’t play a whole lot of man because of that. They bring a bunch of heat and pressure and if you do get out of it, then that secondary runs downhill and tracks you down.”

Creek is no slouch offensively, scoring 29 or more points in eight of 11 games this year. They rely on 1,000-yard rusher Lane Thomas and quarterback Caden Middleton, the program’s all-time passing TD leader.

So how do the Cougars counter the Eagles vaunted defense?

“You make them run east and west,” said Middleton. “Try to get favorable box counts. I think that is the biggest thing for us.  I don’t know that we are going to line up and just (run it straight) at them. We have to make some plays early. We need some explosive plays too. They are really good.”

The Cougars leave Friday at 10 a.m. and will stop at Louisiana Christian for a walk-thru at 11 a.m. Middleton said the team will then drive to Lafayette for pregame meal before heading on to Abbeville. Cedar Creek School will close at lunch on Friday in order to allow students and fans to make the trip south.