Gators looking for play-makers to emerge on offense
Every year, it seems like the Gators lose a laundry list of talented seniors, but yet, the cupboard is never bare at St. Amant.
Longtime head coach David Oliver and the Gators always find a way to regroup, reload and compete in the always-competitive District 5-5A.
They’ll need to duplicate that formula again in 2019, as they replace some of their best players, including two first-team all-district college signees in K.J. Franklin and Johnny Johnson.
The Gators had to move on after losing some of their best performers the previous season. For the most part, St. Amant did so admirably. They won seven games during the regular season and reached the playoffs.
Although, in the first round, they were eliminated by Captain Shreve. The loss snapped what had been a streak of three straight seasons with at least one playoff victory.
The catalyst of last year’s offense was running back K.J. Franklin. With the graduation of Cade Nelson, Franklin was expected to carry the load and be the workhorse of the Gator offense, and he did just that.
The Nicholls signee piled up 1,500 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
If won’t be easy for St. Amant to replicate that kind of production, but Coach Oliver thinks they have some talented running backs that could give the ground attack some juice.
"Lathan Vaughn had a great spring," Oliver said. "I think he’s going to continue the tradition of great St. Amant running backs we’ve been putting out with Nathan Taylor, Cade Nelson and K.J. Franklin. I think he’s gonna have a huge year."
The running game will have to carry the Gators, at least early on in the season. St. Amant will have a first-year starter under center in 2019. They lost Kaleb Thompson and Lathan Bourgeois, who both alternated at QB last season.
Oliver said that there will be a wide-open quarterback competition between Slade Zeppuhar and Cole Poirrier for that starting spot.
"I think the offensive line grew this spring, and I think they’ll be a unit that we can really count on in the fall," Oliver said. "I think we’re still trying to piece together the skill players. We’re still not sure where our receivers fit. We know where Austin Bascom goes, but after him, we’re searching for guys that can step up and make plays.”
One of the receivers Oliver thinks could step up to make a formidable duo with Bascom is Javin Augillard.
Defensively, St. Amant lost an Army signee on the defensive line in Johnny Johnson. They also lost first-team all-district performers such as linebacker Aaron Delaune and defensive back Darius Smith.
Still, the players the Gators return on that side of the ball have Oliver excited about the challenges they can present to opposing offenses.
“McKade Fontenot has been really good at the defensive tackle/nose-guard spot," Oliver said. "I like the inside-linebacker duo of Sam McCorkle and Trey Vice. Our secondary looks pretty good right now with Jordan Bennett, Cameron Henry and our two safeties, Evan Bourgeois and Zack Gonzales. They’re not very big, but they’re St. Amant players to the max. They fly around to the football and play with a lot of enthusiasm. I’m really pleased with where we’re at on defense."
In addition to their tough district tilt, St. Amant will play some challenging non-league opponents in Denham Springs and Lutcher.
“We’re looking forward to the 2019 season,” Oliver said. “We have a challenging non-district schedule that we hope prepares us for our rugged 5-5A District. We will lean on defense and the kicking game as our young offensive skill-players grow into Friday-night players. We will be a fun team to watch.”