As Robb Odom enters his 11th year as West Feliciana’s head football coach, his Saints have some huge shoes to fill.

Gone is a group of seniors that enjoyed what can be described as one of the top seasons in the Class 3A school’s history. The 2014 Saints finished with an 11-3 record and tied for second in District 7-3A behind eventual select state champion University High.

Seeded fifth in the playoffs, the Saints advanced to the semifinals for the second time since 2010, losing a 23-15 heartbreaker to eventual non-select state champion Livonia.

“We lost some good players but that happens each year, and we have some players who have the opportunity to step up and try to fill those spots,” Odom said. “It’ll help us mature quicker and learn to play together as a team.”

The Saints return eight players on offense and seven on defense who were either starters or saw significant playing time last year, which will ease the burden.

Gone is quarterback Ryan Reed and his go-to receiver, Jazz Ferguson. Sophomore Derek “Skeeter” Turner, a backup last year, is penciled in to start at quarterback in the Saints’ triple-option attack.

The defense will be anchored by linebacker Hunter Smith, who was one of two sophomores named to the all-district first team a year ago.

“We’ve been running this offense for a while and we’ve added some wrinkles to it,” said Odom. “You will be successful every year if you do what you’re expected to do and execute the things we build into the system.”

The defense will again line up in a 4-3 base with multiple looks.

As for his team’s depth, Odom said it’s normal for a 3A school. He expects the team’s strength will be its lines on both sides of the ball. He said if there’s a weakness, it’s the same for many teams early in the season: maturity and experience.

“We’ve always had good athletes at this school who step up every year,” said Odom. “They work hard and play unselfishly and understand the importance of team and that’s your brother next to you. You can overcome a lack of experience by playing hard and physical to the whistle. That will carry you to the next level.”

Looking at the schedule, Odom said there’s a challenge every week, including a jamboree game at Zachary, pre-district contests against East Feliciana, Livonia and Live Oak. The Saints are part of the realigned District 6-3A and will face a formidable slate beginning with U-High, Donaldsonville and Brusly, followed by Port Allen, Baker, Parkview and Glen Oaks. He goes into the season expecting improvement from all of the district competitors.

“There’s no bye week,” Odom said. “Every week is important. We’ll need some good fortune, and we need to stay healthy. They’re all good football teams we’re facing.

“I’m looking forward to playing the game of football and getting to work with our kids.”