Gators hoping new cast can repeat success of 2016

Kyle Riviere
The St. Amant offense will be led this year by all-district tailback Cade Nelson (left) and first-year starting quarterback Halen Miller (right). Photo by Kyle Riviere.

The 2016 season was a special one for St. Amant.

Their community was ravaged by the August flood. Head coach David Oliver and many of his players had their homes flooded.

Along with houses, St. Amant High and The Pit were both under water.

The team could have let the heartache and strife of the natural disaster overtake them, but they didn’t.

Instead, they showed the kind of grit and perseverance that the St. Amant community could rally behind all season.

Despite the personal hardships, the Gators had one of their most successful seasons in school history as they won nine regular season games, finished as runner-up in District 5-5A and reached the state quarterfinals.

St. Amant is hoping to keep their foot to the pedal in 2017, but it won’t be easy. The Gators have just lost one of the most successful senior classes they’ve had in recent memory.

As Coach Oliver has said over the summer: “We have a lot of new pieces.”

Many of those new pieces will be on offense.

The Gators are losing a two-year starter at quarterback in Hayden Mallory. Mallory has been one of the leading passers in the state ever since he became a starter.

Last season, he threw for 2,119 yards and 31 touchdowns on his way to being named first-team all-district and Parish Offensive MVP.

He led an offense that averaged 45 points per game during the regular season.

Along with Mallory, the Gators’ entire starting receiving corps will be missing from last year—including three-year starter Briggs Bourgeois.

Bourgeois was the team’s Swiss Army Knife last season as he came up with 836 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns as a wideout. As a kicker, he went 13-15 with a long of 51 yards—which was good enough to earn him a scholarship to Southern Miss.

Bourgeois was also the team’s top return specialist.

Along with him, receivers Jacob Cheatwood, Larson Fontenot and Ivan Prejean will also be gone.

Fortunately for St. Amant, they’ll bring back a first-team all-district running back in Cade Nelson.

Nelson began 2016 as the backup, but when starter Mark Darby went down with a knee injury, he seized his opportunity—rushing for over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Offensive linemen Luke Ory and Karl Mires will be back to pave the way for him.

The speedy K.J. Franklin returns as a running back and slot receiver for the Gators, and wideouts Hector Rodriguez, Tate Broussard and Grant Alexander all looked good during the spring.

This year, they’ll have Halen Miller throwing them the ball. After backing up Mallory for the past two seasons, the senior will finally have his time to shine from under center.

Defensively, St. Amant will lose many heralded players, including defensive lineman Garett Stephens, defensive backs Khaj Washington, Patrick Wolfe and Jerrick Beckwith and linebacker Cade Roddy.

But even with the mass exodus, Coach Oliver still likes the front seven the Gators return.

During the spring, he said, “I like the way the front five or seven on our defensive front played with Brandon Bell, Johnny Johnson, Nick Furlow, Jacolby Landry, Reid Babin and Colton King. I think those guys have been playing tremendously.”

Coach Oliver also expects defensive backs Ben Parker, Tajhe Jones and Jarious Mingo to have a big impact on St. Amant’s defense this year.

The Gators will play their usual District 5-5A schedule this season. When it comes to non-district contests, they’ll have two big games against St. James and Lutcher.

St. Amant has developed quite the rivalry with Lutcher over the past few years. The Bulldogs only lost three games during their run of back-to-back Class 3A state titles. Two of those losses have come against St. Amant.

The Gators have won the last three matchups by a combined margin of 6 points.

This year, they’ll host Lutcher on Sept. 22.