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Prep Football Preview: St. Louis Saints facing a lot of unknowns

Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8:32 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It is not so much the size of the shoes that need to be filled at St. Louis but rather the number.

The Saints return five starters from last year’s team, which finished 5-6 and lost in the first round of the high school football playoffs to Neville.

Add the fact St. Louis, in District 4-3A, is moving into the non-select portion of the playoffs and you come to understand there are a lot of unknowns going on this season when it comes to the Saints.

“Nobody is sure just how this is all going to look when the playoffs come,” said St. Louis assistant head coach Tommy Johns. “There are a lot of things that have to be decided between now and then. I think it is going to be a lot of trial by error.”

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The same might be said for this Saints team. With so many holes to fill, it would be easy for folks to talk about rebuilding. But St. Louis coaches and players are not ready to do that.

“We have had a great spring and are really looking forward to seeing how things go,” Johns said. “We have had to move a lot of people around, which makes for excitement. The kids are ready. They have put in the work.

“To call it rebuilding would mean we don’t like our chances. We think we will have a lot of room for growth and could be a good team. We have some talent.”

Senior Jared Smith is one of two offensive starters. Last year he led the team in rushing with 687 yards on 153 carries and four touchdowns.

Those numbers should go up as Smith becomes more of a focal point to the attack.

Smith, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound battering ram, will be joined in the backfield by tailback Dylan Greenman, a junior who Johns said could also see time at quarterback and wide receiver. Senior Nicholas Ieyoub is set for the wingback spot.

For now, senior Jack Boyer will replace J.P. Crawford at quarterback. Crawford graduated after going 97 of 167 for 986 yards with seven touchdowns but 12 interceptions.

“We will look a lot like we have before on offense,” Johns said. “We have a few new wrinkles, but we are going to do what we do best.”

The offensive line will be anchored by 6-3, 215-pound Robbie McPherson at right tackle.

Brandon Bilbo moved to center to play next to guards John Marceaux and Hunter Saltzman. Bilbo is the biggest of the linemen at 6-foot, 290. Brant McNease and Austin Simon will battle for the other starting spot on the line with 6-2, 180-pound Karlis Gardner getting the nod at tight end.

“Keeping our main players healthy will be a key to what success we have on the offensive side of the ball,” head coach Mike Johns said.

On defense, the fresh faces are almost as many.

Three starters are back, all in the secondary. Senior safeties Rue Stevens and Andrew Darbonne are back, along with junior cornerback Dekenien Francois. But McKenzie Frank and John Ange will get their first real taste of action this fall at the other two secondary spots.

Last year the Saints were forced to play more players than usual both ways. That trend will continue this fall.

“We have not really had to do that around here in the past, but you do what you have to do,” said Tommy Johns. “We have been pleased with the way the players have responded to that. They seem to be ready for the new challenges.”

Then there is the front six of the Saints, all lost to graduation.

“We graduated the entire front and both linebackers,” Mike Johns said. “How we respond and come around in these two areas will be a key to how well we do on defense.”

The line will be Blake St. Romain, Zac Swartzenburgh, Tyler Keer and Ethan Bouillion. All are under 6 feet tall with Swartzenburgh begin the lone junior.

John Pruitt and Devin Wicke will take over the linebacker spots.

“Hopefully by district we will have matured and got good experience to be successful,” Mike Johns said.

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