Gators play well in spring game

Kyle Riviere
St. Amant quarterback Hayden Mallory and running back Mark Darby will create a formidable one-two punch for the Gators in 2016.

With so many starters returning from a team that went 8-2 last season and reached the second round of the playoffs, St. Amant headed into the spring confident and ready to set the tone for 2016.

They certainly looked like contenders for much of their spring game on the road against Denham Springs last Tuesday night. The Gator first-team unit scored four touchdowns, while they held the Yellow Jackets to just two.

“I was pleased with our spring. I think our young guys got a whole lot better,” St. Amant head coach David Oliver said. “We got to rep them; we saw them improve. That’s the big focus, that and taking our freshmen and sophomore players and turning them into varsity players as close as we can in 10 days of practice. I like where we’re at as a football team.”

The Gator offense moved the ball well all day. On two early drives, they reached Denham Springs territory—once getting to the 3-yard line. However, they were not able to score before the segments ended.

St. Amant’s defensive highlight of the game came when a promising Yellow Jacket drive was ended after an interception by Khaj Washington.

A team finally reached the end zone when Mark Darby sparked the Gator offense with a 31-yard run. They scored when returning second-team all-district quarterback Hayden Mallory hit Koby Hanna for a nine-yard score.

When the teams began to take the ball at the opponents’ 25-yard line, the Gator offense went back to work.

After St. Amant collected a ground score, Mallory hit Jacob Cheatwood on a slant for a 25-yard touchdown.

Denham Springs finally scored two touchdowns on their next offensive segment, but the Gators finished strong.

On the very last play of the scrimmage, Mallory hit Cheatwood for an 11-yard score.

Coach Oliver was very pleased with his team’s effort, but he did see some things that he’d like his squad to clean up over the summer.

“We have to stick on blocks a little longer. We have to protect the football and clean up some of these penalties,” Oliver said. “I didn’t think we were very sharp today. We had a few blocks in the back. Every time we had an explosive play, it seems like we had a penalty that brought it back. So, we definitely have some stuff to work on, and the summertime is critical in the development of your football team.”

The Gators have plenty of stars returning from 2015—especially on offense. Mallory returns, along with a lethal receiving corps that consists of Cheatwood, Briggs Bourgeois and Larson Fontenot.

Darby will replace all-district tailback Nathan Taylor. Darby saw many snaps last year and was one of the best return men in the parish.

Defensively, the Gators bring back all-district players in Garett Stephens, Patrick Wolfe and Cade Roddy.

There were other players that really stood out to Coach Oliver over the spring.

“Cade Fortenberry is a senior on the offensive line. He came up big, also Marco Lopez,” Oliver said. “Colton King is a linebacker that showed me some things. Evan Vice and Johnny Vickers have stood out to me. This is where guys start to show that they’re ready for Friday nights.”

The Gators will head into 2016 with high expectations. Last season, St. Amant started the season off at 7-0, before finishing 8-2. They were the only team to beat eventual 3A state champion Lutcher.

In the playoffs, St. Amant rolled past Covington, 36-21, before losing to seventh-seeded Hahnville in the second round.

Coach Oliver said that this team’s biggest strength will be their senior leadership.

“I like our senior class. We have 37 of them,” Oliver said. “We also have seven support people, so pretty much, 44 grown high-school kids are teaching our younger kids and showing them the way. I think that group of people—whether they’re starters or backups—is going to be instrumental in leading us forward as a football team.”