The St. Mary’s football team kicks off a highly-anticipated 2021 campaign at home tonight when the Class 1A Tigers play host to the 3A Abbeville Wildcats in a 7 p.m. contest at NSU’s Turpin Stadium.
Abbeville, the hometown of the late, great Natchitoches and Northwestern legendary football player and coach Walter Ledet, is also very excited about having a big year this fall.
“They’ve been down the last couple of years, but this is supposed to be their best team in 15 years,” said Tigers coach Aaron York. “They’re a good bunch. They’re athletic, and they’re big.”
While the Wildcats will outnumber their hosts, it remains to be seen if they can outplay the Tigers. Both teams did not play in jamboree competition last Friday due to COVID quarantine issues. Abbeville had been idled for two weeks before getting back to practice Tuesday.
St. Mary’s is back near full strength, said York.
“We have our kids back, everybody but one young man. We finally have had 11 on offense, 11 on defense (on scout teams) to get a look during the week, which really helps us prepare.”
That preparation is no substitute for what happens once the opening whistle sounds tonight, and York is eager to see it unfold.
“I’m interested in seeing how our guys play four quarters of live football. We played in a scrimmage and that’s it. Everything’s been simulated in practice. This is game time.
“I’m confident in all of them. I feel the kids are prepped. They know what to do. I want to see if they can execute what they’ve practiced,” said York.
“If we don’t turn the ball over, I believe we’ll be a really good offensive team, and if we can make the fundamental tackles on defense, we’re going to be a really good defensive team.
“Our skill guys are really good. Our linemen, offensive and defensive, they understand what we’re trying to teach. Now it’s time to play somebody else for four quarters, and let’s see how we perform,” York said.
The opening game is a landmark, but also step one in a season-long journey York believes will lead to a chance for a playoff run. There’s a key to getting in prime position for that opportunity, and it’s developing younger Tigers into contributors.
“Our concern is building depth. We’ve got to develop more kids into players so we can get guys over on the sideline getting some rest at times, so we are not getting tired as the game goes on,” he said.
SMHS is taking on five stout, upper-class non-district opponents with a playoff strategy in mind.
“We’re playing up. Going into the offseason working on the schedule, we needed to upgrade our non-district games to build (playoff) power points. We were 6-2 last year and district champs, and we were in danger of not making the playoffs. So we are stepping up and playing 2A and 3A schools, and counting on the power points to help us out when it’s time,” said York.
Now, it’s time to kick off the 2021 season, against a much-bigger school.
“I’m excited to see what our kids can do,” said York. “There will only be 22 at a time on the field, 11 of theirs and 11 of ours, and I know our guys are going to play extremely hard and I believe we will play very well.”
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