It was not the season opener St. Amant High School football coach David Oliver hoped for.
The Gators were soundly beaten by Warren Easton of New Orleans in a game played on their home turf, The Pit.
As Oliver ponders Friday’s District 5-5A showdown against second-ranked Dutchtown, he notes the 26-6 loss to Easton on Sept. 2 helped shape his St. Amant team that has a four-game winning streak.
“We came into the season with some expectations and didn’t handle that situation very well,” Oliver said. “The players didn’t do the things they needed to do, and neither did we as coaches. We got beat, plain and simple. Sometimes you need that. And I think that helped us refocus our energies.”
The Gators seem focused now. St. Amant has scored no less than 35 points in its four wins.
It’s a progression that Oliver, now in his fourth season at St. Amant, has been hoping for.
“There are a couple of things that have made a difference for us,” he said. “Our numbers (of players) are up, and that has allowed us to play platoon football. We don’t have to rely on guys playing both ways. Having that depth makes a big difference on the 5A level. The other thing that really helps is the growth of our defense.
“Our secondary is solid, and we’re more athletic on the line, which allows us to do more.”
Oliver said St. Amant (4-1) will face its toughest test when hosting Ascension Parish rival DHS (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at The Pit, St. Amant Middle School. By the same token, the Gators will be looking to surprise the Griffins, too.
It has already been a year of surprises for St. Amant. They start with quarterback Tyler Guillory, who opted not to play football last season, choosing instead to concentrate on baseball. Guillory was the Gators starter as a sophomore.
“Tyler came to us in the spring and said he wanted to come earn his spot back,” Oliver said. “And he’s done that. He has the respect and trust of all the guys out there.
“Sure, he’s had to shake some of the rust off. Tyler knows our system and you can see him getting better every week.”
Quarterback is a key role in the flexbone offense. As Guillory has become comfortable, so have the Gators.
Guillory has passed for 472 yards and four touchdowns and has distributed the ball to a diverse collection of receivers and running backs.
Trey Washington leads St. Amant rushers with 387 yards and a total of 12 TDs. He is averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Receiver Ryan Cardinale has seven catches for 202 yards, an average of 28.9 per reception.
Other running backs-wing backs playing key roles include Tylor Gonzales, Kirk Elisar and Grady Miles. D.J. Nickens is another wide receiver. This week, the Gators should also get a boost from the return of 240-pound fullback Cameron Morris, who tore an ACL last spring.
“We’re not a team that has superstars,” Oliver said. “In order for us to be successful, everybody needs to contribute.”
The SAHS defense returned three starters in the secondary: Wendell Williams, Desmond Price and Jacob Morles. Linebacker Brandon Rogers, and a line led by juniors Nick Bickham and Tendrick Cooper, have done their part, providing pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Oliver is making no predictions about Friday’s game. “They (the Griffins) don’t need any incentive,” Oliver said. “I believe we match up with them better than we have the last couple of years. And one thing’s for sure ? I’m glad we’re playing them at home.”