SIZE MATTERS: Martin, Bumgardner bring bulk, experience to Gators’ lines
ST. AMANT – As the St. Amant High School football program moves into the second year under the tutelage of head coach David Oliver, the Gators will rely heavily on the experience of a senior class of 20 and its size on both fronts of the ball.
Two prime examples of who St. Amant will get leadership from this season or three-year starting defensive tackles Marvin Martin and Justin Bumgardner.
“Marvin and Justin are pretty indicative or our entire senior class,” Oliver said. “I think they are going to be one of the strengths of our football team this year. We have 20 seniors and they have all struggled through adversity last season and through the change of command and they are all better players for it.”
“They are strong, physical and both playing both sides of the ball. They are trained to be at least back ups on both sides of the ball and we just feel like we can really count on them. They are dependable, unselfish and will put the team first and those are the type of guys you want to build a program behind.”
St. Amant is coming off a winless season, the first since going 0-10 in 1979, the second year of the program, finishing with an 0-9 overall record and 0-5 district mark a year ago and Martin and Bumgardner do not want to experience those kind of feelings again in their senior campaign.
“Going 0-9 was a hurtful feeling,” Martin said. “This year, we are just going to throw that away and not think about that anymore. All we are going to do is plan on winning and going to the playoffs.”
Bumgardner said last season’s lack of wins has turned into an incentive this season.
“It is motivation,” Bumgardner said. “Nobody ever wants to go winless and this is our senior year, so we are hoping to make the playoffs.”
Martin and Bumgardner have developed a close relationship with Oliver, a former tight end, who has developed a hands-on approach to teaching the offensive line where both are expected to see significant time this season.
“Coach Oliver makes practice intense,” Martin said. “We have worked really hard to get better and lock ins have really bonded the team together. He made us become a team so we can be better in the future.
“To go both ways, you just have to work hard in the summer to get your stamina up, so when it comes game time, you are ready for it.”
Bumgardner admits the change to the offensive side of the ball will be straining.
“It is going to be hard because this is my first year playing offense so I have to learn all the new plays and stances but I think I am grasping it and Coach O has been working hard with us,” Bumgardner said. “He is not like other coaches we have had. He will sit out in the rain and talk with us to help us. He is different because he knows when to joke with us and knows when it is time to get serious and when it is time for business.”
Martin lists at 6-5 and 290 pounds, while Bumgardner is 6-0 and 280 pounds. Together they lead the Gator fronts that average 250 pounds and because both have played since they were sophomores they will be relied upon not only for their size but also their leadership.
“I try to bring the team together,” Martin said. “Sometimes I have fun with the younger guys but I also get serious with them. I just want them to follow me and become better football players in the future.
“Having size on the defensive line contributes overall to the defense because if you bring a push to an opposing team’s offense, they will struggle to pass and run. We are going to be able to shut that down. We also have good linebackers and a good secondary, so the defense will be locked down this year.”
Their transition to both sides of the ball have also showed unselfishness.
“There are a lot of guys on the team that look up to us because we have been starting since our sophomore year,” Bumgardner said. “We are playing both ways this year, so they are going to rely on us.
“We are returning all of our starters on the defensive line and we got a couple of big guys. We have enough size and that makes a difference because you get more push.”
Martin earned second-team all-District 6-5A honors last season after registering a team-high two sacks to go with 50 tackles, including three for losses.
“When I got my sack against Destrehan, the whole crowd got excited and the sideline got pumped up,” Martin said. “It motivates the whole team to continue getting to the quarterback the entire game.”
Bumgardner also knows the feeling and excitement of sacking the quarterback.
“A sack they say is one of the hardest things,” Bumgardner said. “You feel good because you just passed all the lineman and running backs trying to block you and when you finally get to that quarterback, it motivates the whole team.”
Martin said the game of football comes to life on Friday nights because of the aura of the Pit.
“It makes me feel good playing at the Pit because there is a lot of tradition at St. Amant High,” Martin said. “ Being on the field with the crowd watching you just motivates you to win. It is just a great atmosphere with everyone cheering you on.”
Bumgardner has played the game since he was five years old through little leagues and middle school to get to high school and play on Friday nights.
“I just love the game,” Bumgardner said. “It is an awesome sport. I love being out here with friends and it is just an awesome feeling to have all these people stare at you and watch you play football.”