Setting the bar
ST. AMANT - As head coach David Oliver takes over the St. Amant program after serving as offensive coordinator last season, seniors Adrian Bourgeois and Jake Roberts has seen a difference in their mentor.
Oliver replaces David Swacker, who was at the helm for a decade, and his Gators are looking to rebound from a 3-7 campaign and make the Class 5A playoffs for the first time since 2005.
“He has changed a lot,” Bourgeois said. “I think he knows we can do it. He knows we can be one of the best teams in our district. He is pushing us real hard. We are running every day. He is making sure the seniors do things right because the younger guys look up to us and he wants them to follow in our footsteps.”
Roberts enjoys his head coach’s philosophy.
“He is pushing us more,” Roberts said. “The way he coaches, he is laid back sometimes but he is one of those coaches that gets up and yells and gets excited and that excites us. It excites me and makes me want to play more hard to give us a chance to win.”
Oliver is excited to lead the Gators this season and has brought back long-time head coach Doug Moreau to install the triple option, which St. Amant’s offense was based on during his tenure through the 80s and 90’s.
“Everyone has to put a stamp on their program and try to make it your own,” Oliver said. “I think the program has been taken care of over the course of the years and has a rich history and tradition and I am looking to channel that into a bright future. (Moreau) brings a connection to past and has a lot invested in the place and clearly is an expert in the style of offense that we are going to run.”
Oliver said the Gators are setting goals high this season and are looking for a lot of contribution from not just their seniors.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die,” Oliver said. “I think that the goal has to be set high and you have to work for it everyday. You have to get great effort and if you set your bar high, even if you don’t accomplish your goals, you will have done more than you would have ordinarily done by setting your goals low.”
“All of our players are valuable to our squad. Everyone has to fill a role. We have 80 kids and they all have to be accountable to one another.”
Oliver said Bourgeois who returns to fullback for St. Amant after rushing for 235 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries and hauling in nine catches for 146 yards and one touchdown last season, is one of several Gators to receive interest from college recruiters.
“They have to go out and play a good solid senior season and see how everything goes,” Oliver said.
Oliver said the Gators are comfortable at inside linebacker with the return of both Roberts and Zach Whittington.
“Jake is a very instinctive player,” Oliver said. “He diagnosis his blocking schemes extremely well. He finds the football. He knows where it is going.”
Bourgeois and Roberts, two of 26 seniors, expect to step up and provide leadership this season.
“We are trying to win games this year,” Bourgeois said. “We want everybody to give it their all. Do what they can to not go 3-7 this year and try to get to the playoffs. Through the hard times you have to keep going.”
“We want everybody to go that extra mile,” Roberts said. “Learn how to fight through the pain and keep lifting each other up. Don’t bring anybody down and keep good spirits.”
Playing on different sides of the ball, Bourgeois and Roberts possess different mindsets when they hit the field.
“First of all you have to secure the ball,” Bourgeois said. “Coach teaches us you want to try to get at least four yards every play and you are going to get a first down. You have to focus on the plays and execute. If you have certain responsibilities you have to stick to it every single time no matter what defense we are facing. You have to step up to it everytime.”
Roberts said the feeling of hitting people is what brings him to the field.
“You want to make them put the ball on the ground,” Roberts said. “I love hitting people. Everyday. When you hit somebody, you get that feeling inside and it just gives you chills. You just have to let it all hang out. Keep everything in front of you and don’t let anybody behind you. You don’t get a play off. You have to be ready every play.”
Bourgeois has played organized football for 13 years and “The Pit” has been his home field since he was six-years-old
“The thing about this place right here is it has always been my home field,” Bourgeois said. “This is like my house and somebody is coming to take my T.V. I am trying to protect it. When I cross the white line, it feels like the lights come on and when I get the ball it is just like I am in a tunnel and I know what I got to do.”
Both Bourgeois and Roberts are expecting the Gators to return to the playoffs this year.
“We are definitely ready,” Roberts said. “I love the atmosphere and the feeling of all the people that support you when you are playing. It makes you feel good about yourself. We are expecting to make it to the playoffs. That is our main goal and after that take it game by game and keep fighting.”
“We know what it takes on Friday nights,” Bourgeois said. “There is no turning back. I think we are pretty prepared. We have a little bit of polishing to do but we are definitely ready for the challenge and the competition. In the past two years, we haven’t made the playoffs but this year we have a lot of coaches on the staff that have been there and done that so they are installing a championship mentality in us. We feel like we definitely have to meet their expectations and go to the next level. Things we haven’t done before.”