Up in the air

Kyle Riviere
Tyler Dixon will be stepping in at quarterback for the Gators this year. Photo by Dewey Keller.

The St. Amant starting lineup will look drastically different this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a rebuilding year.

The Gators lost 32 seniors and all but a handful of starters from a season ago.

You would think that means the team is now full of a bunch of weary-eyed youngsters that are about to get thrown to the wolves.

However, even though experience may be lacking, this St. Amant squad is chocked-full of veterans who have been waiting years for their opportunity to shine, and that time has finally come.

The Gators have a roster jam-packed with over 100 players, and 41 of them just so happen to be seniors.

Those seniors have been rejuvenated after a year in which St. Amant made it to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

The Gators finished 7-2 during the regular season; that included a thrilling 15-10 win over archrival East Ascension in the season finale. In the playoffs, they fell to district and parish rival Dutchtown in the opening round 20-10.

They certainly lost their share of great players from that playoff squad.

The Gators lost all 11 starters on offense. That includes two first-team all-district offensive linemen in Evan Lambert and DJ Nickens and second-team all-district offensive linemen Dakota Nickens and Ira Ross.

Stud tailback Trey Washington, tailback and dangerous return man Kirk Elisar and consistent receivers Ryan Cardinale and Madison Nickens have all graduated.

Another player that's gone is quarterback Beau Nickel. With him out, Tyler Dixon will step in under center. Dixon is a versatile guy that saw plenty of action last season at signal-caller.

Richard Williams will be filling in for Washington as the Gators' new feature back, and the experienced Evan Matheny will be back at tailback and the slot.

Speedy receiver Marquise Hampton is expected to emerge as a nice weapon for St. Amant in the passing game.

Defensively was where the Gators really thrived last year. They only gave up a miniscule 11 points per game. They held their opponents to 10 or less points in five of their 10 games.

From that staunch defensive squad, they lost first-team all-district players in linebacker Brandon Rogers, defensive backs Jacob Morales and Gabe Richards and defensive lineman Nic Bickum--who was a Louisiana Tech signee.

They also lost second-team all-district performers in defensive lineman Tendrick Cooper and linebacker Chance Cernich.

However, the Gator unit returns seven players. One of those returning players will be second-team all-district defensive lineman Reese LeBlanc. And in the secondary, another second-team all-district player in Jonovan Lewis will be back.

Other players to watch out for include Beau Brown, returning linebacker Nathan Martinez, and Tyler Johnson will try to help anchor the new-look St. Amant defensive line.

When it comes to the schedule, the district still looks to be where the biggest challenges will come for the Gators.

Two weeks after facing 4A power Lutcher, they'll begin league play against Catholic. To end the season, they'll play archrival East Ascension and host Dutchtown for the finale.

They will get their first crack at the Spartans this Friday when they make the short trip to Gonzales to play them in the jamboree. And on Sept. 6, they will officially begin the season with a home game against Warren Easton.