ITLR Preview: Eagles hope to leave 2016 campaign in the past

Andrew Green
2017 St. John Eagles

If there is one thing on the St. John Eagles mind this season it is this: forget about 2016.  Last year, the St. John Eagles went winless for the first time since 1988.  This low point occurred under former head coach “Woody” Cagnolatti, who accepted a position out of state.

St. John went 0-10 and 0-6 in district play and suffered four shutout losses last season.  This year, the Eagles will look to put their past behind them under the leadership of newly named head coach James Piker.

The losing streak came after the school lost 12 key seniors from the year before.  Some good news for the 2017 St. John Eagles is that they only lost one senior to graduation, lineman Trenton Jumonville.

Though they will have a new head coach, the St. John Eagles will bring with them some experience.  Junior Adam Blanchard will return to the helm as starting quarterback this season.  The running back tandem of Justin Rivet and Landon Leblanc will also make an appearance on the gridiron this year.

Rivet, a junior, and Leblanc, who is returning for his senior season, have really been the lone bright spot for the St. John Eagles last year.  The team struggled to move the ball through the air, and when they did score it was usually on the turf.

Also starting on the offensive side of the ball is senior Devin Brock, a speedster and basketball standout for St. John, who is skilled at moving downfield quickly.  On the defensive side of the ball last year, the St. John Eagles had all of their defensive backs return.  This year, expect more of the same as none were lost to graduation.

Look for the Eagles to be a run-first style offense, especially under coach Piker who has several years of coaching on the offensive and defensive line.  Piker, who believes the game is won in the trenches, will instill the hard-nosed mentality that goes with opening gaps for running backs and, in turn, learning to stop the run.

“The kids have a lot of enthusiasm,” said Piker when he was named head coach this summer. “They’re awake and they want to be here.  There is a lot that’s in place already that we will build upon and try to right the ship.”

The road to victory is a tough one this year, as it always is in 6-1A, but the Eagles will look to earn a few key wins early in pre-district play.

St. John opens their season Aug. 31 at home against rival False River, followed by a tough three-game road trip against Brusly (Sept. 8), Catholic P.C. (Sept. 15) and Covenant Christian (Sept. 22).  They return home for one pre-district matchup against Highland Baptist on Sept. 28 before they open district play on the road against Southern Lab on Oct. 6.

A bright spot in the Eagles schedule this season is a three-week home stand in the middle of their district schedule.  On Oct. 13 they will host White Castle, Kentwood on Oct. 19 and East Iberville on Oct. 27 before closing out their regular season on the road at Ascension Catholic on Nov. 2.

St. John will look to come out on top of their Iberville Parish rivals in White Castle and East Iberville as both teams are also under new leadership and are in the middle of rebuilding their program.