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Stefano Guarisco
(Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Nicholls Athletics)

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Garret LeBlanc
(Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Nicholls Athletics)

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Bailey Badeaux
(Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Nicholls Athletics)

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Andrea Dragna
(Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Nicholls Athletics)

Locals have contributed to Nicholls' success

Nicholls football made history this season as it secured the program’s first back-to-back postseason appearance.
Locally, four players, including two who have seen extensive playing time this season, are members of this year’s No. 14-ranked squad, which will kick off the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Saturday at 3 p.m. at John L. Guidry Stadium against No. 19 San Diego.
Central Catholic High alums Garret LeBlanc and Stefano Guarisco have seen playing time in 11 and eight games, respectively.
LeBlanc, a redshirt junior tight end, has played tight end and on special teams but hasn’t recorded any stats.
Central Catholic High alum Bailey Badeaux, a sophomore running back, and Morgan City High alum Andrea Dragna, a freshman deep snapper, also are members of this year’s squad, but have not received playing time.
Guarisco, a junior wide receiver, said the Nicholls coaching staff and players have built a “winning culture.”
“We want to keep it that way,” Guarisco said. “We know that nothing’s going to be given to us. We got to go out and earn everything, and we work hard every day. The coaches, players, staff, everyone, we’re always out here working, just trying to better ourselves, and I think that’s what helps us go is hard work and dedication.”
Guarisco is trying to rebound from a fractured fibula suffered during the team’s homecoming game against Incarnate Word on Oct. 27.
If the Colonels win Saturday, Guarisco said he is hopeful that he can return to the field in a second-round contest against Eastern Washington on Dec. 1. Eastern Washington received a first-round bye.
Guarisco is fourth on the team in receiving yards with 204 on 14 receptions. He has a long of 65 yards and averages 25.5 yards per catch. He also has two kickoff returns for 25 yards.
Nicholls’ opponent, San Diego (9-2) will be playing in its third consecutive FCS Playoffs. The Toreros have made the playoffs four of the past five years and have won their last two first-round playoff games.
LeBlanc said making the playoffs for the second straight season after doing so a year ago is “fulfilling” but it isn’t the final goal.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “The goal isn’t making it to the playoffs. The goal is to win a playoff game and then win a national championship.”
San Diego, which is entering the postseason on an eight-game winning streak, finished undefeated in the Pioneer Football League with an 8-0 record. It’s the third time in as many years that the Toreros have finished perfect in league play.
The Toreros’ last loss this season came on Sept. 15 in a 34-16 defeat at Harvard.
The squad is led by its passing game. Redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Lawrence has completed 252 of 376 passes for 3,785 yards with 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Lawrence, who ranks No. 2 in the FCS in passing yards and No. 1 in passing touchdowns, is completing 67 percent of his passes.
San Diego’s passing offense is ranked No. 2 in Football Championship Subdivision at 349.2 yards per game, No. 11 in total offense at 480.8 and No. 10 in scoring offense at 38.5 points a contest.
Lawrence’s top receiver is junior Michael Bandy, who has caught 79 passes for 1,554 yards and 14 touchdowns. Bandy is ranked No. 1 in receiving yards nationally and No. 5 in receiving touchdowns.
Sophomore Emilio Martinez leads the Toreros’ ground game with 126 carries for 702 yards and nine touchdowns.
Defensively, sophomore Kama Kamaka leads San Diego with 62 tackles, while redshirt sophomore Jacob Bergstrom has a team-high 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Nicholls enters the game on a four-game winning streak after finishing the regular season 8-3 overall. The Colonels won the Southland Conference with a 7-2 mark.
Meanwhile, Nicholls is ranked on both sides of the ball.
Nicholls’ defense is ranked No. 23 in total defense, surrendering 327 yards a contest. Nicholls surrenders 224.8 yards through the air a game.
Nicholls is tied for second nationally is sacks per contest with 3.64 and third in tackles for loss per game with 8.6.
Junior linebacker Evan Veron leads Nicholls with 20.5 tackles for loss (seven sacks), while junior defensive lineman Sully Laiche has 16.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (8.5 sacks). Senior defensive lineman Ronald Ollie has contributed 12 tackles for loss.
Junior defensive back Khristian Mims is Nicholls’ top tackler with 60 stops.
Offensively, Nicholls is No. 17 in total offense, producing 470.5 yards a contest.
In particular, Nicholls’ run game is ranked No. 13 with 245.8 yards per contest.
Junior running back Dontrell Taylor leads Nicholls’ ground game with 754 yards on 103 carries with six touchdowns.
Through the air, junior Chase Fourcade has completed 176 of 291 passes for 2,447 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is ranked No. 26 nationally in passing yards.
Fourcade’s top receivers are senior Damion Jeanpiere Jr. and sophomore Dai’Jean Dixon, who each have 685 yards. Jeanpiere has two scores and Dixon, seven.

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