Gators looking to turn things around in 2020
Teams across the state are wishing, hoping and praying that the high-school football season will not get cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In Ascension Parish, St. Amant might be the team that has the most desire for the season to move forward. The Gators are chomping at the bit to prove that 2019 was just an aberration.
Last year's failures have fueled them to turn things around in 2020 and get back to the playoffs.
The 2019 season was a struggle for St. Amant. The Gators began the season in a 1-2 hole. They followed that up with a 2-3 performance in district play to finish with a 5-5 overall record.
That mark was not good enough for them to make the postseason. It was the first time since 2011 that St. Amant missed out on the playoffs.
Also, it was the first time since 2013 that the Gators lost to both Dutchtown and archrival East Ascension in the same year. Their loss to the Spartans was by a 27-point margin.
Longtime head coach David Oliver attributes much of his team's struggles in 2019 to their youth. He said that he thinks that their youth and inexperience hampered them late in games and late in the season.
"We had a young team. We lost two of our first three games. We had a lead in the fourth quarter of both of those losses," Oliver said. " We won the next four to move to 5-2, but we lost three games to district rivals. We didn't finish well. We want to focus on finishing games in 2020."
The Gators did lose some significant pieces from last year's team.
St. Amant will be without their top two receivers in Javin Augillard and Austin Bascom. The duo combined for 86 catches for 1,260 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019. Both were college signees.
The Gators also lost two all-district offensive linemen in Isaak Theriot and Gavin Franz. On the defensive line, they lost all-district starters Jamir Baptiste and Reese Nelson.
But the cupboard will not be totally bare for the Gators. They will still bring back some experienced players--including their top two quarterbacks from 2019.
Last season, St. Amant alternated QBs. Both Cole Poirrier and Slade Zeppuhar led the offense each game.
Poirrier threw for 1,190 yards and 10 touchdowns, compared to just two interceptions. Zeppuhar threw for 775 yards with eight touchdowns and just four picks.
Poirrier also ran for 199 yards and two scores.
Toward the end of 2019, Poirrier took over as the full-time starter. Oliver expects him to be the Gators' signal caller in 2020. However, Zeppuhar has the experience to step in when needed.
St. Amant also returns leading rusher Reggie Sims.
Heading into 2019, Lathan Vaughn was supposed to be the guy at running back for the Gators, but he spent much of the year injured.
Sims had to step in and get the bulk of the carries. He ended up rushing for 576 yards and 13 touchdowns, with a whopping 7.1 yards per-carry average.
Although St. Amant lost their two top receivers, they return their third-leading receiver in Justin Storks, who was an all-district selection.
On the offensive line, Oliver has high hopes for tackle Kaleb Rock.
Defensively, St. Amant will be led by two all-district players.
Their secondary is highlighted by safety Evan Bourgeois, who was a first-team all-district performer last season. And at middle linebacker, Sam McCorkle returns as one of the team's leading tacklers.
St. Amant is scheduled to open the season at home against George Washington Carver on Sept. 4.
They begin district play at McKinley on Oct. 9, and their season finale is at home against East Ascension on Nov. 6.