BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - This year’s St. Stanislaus team might look quite a bit different from last year’s. The team loses starting quarterback Max Favre, the Coast’s leading receiver in Dallas Payne, 900-yard receiver Bradley Darby, and Division I bound Lee Negrotto. But that hasn’t stopped the Rock-a-Chaws from rolling through an unprecedented offseason with laser focus.
“I think we’re right where we need to be,” head coach Nate Encrapera said. “I think mentally, we have a lot of guys that are seniors now that have played a lot of meaningful downs of football. They’re really getting into their third year of football. That’s something that we’re going to take advantage of and look forward to.”
Being able to commit to the task at hand both on and off the field is a lesson coach Encrapera and his staff have preached to their players.
“I think that’s been the mantra around here, it’s hard work,” Encrapera said. “Nobody cares what you did yesterday. It’s not just about making yourself better, it’s how you can make the other 10 guys on the field better. That’s something we’ve stressed for a really long time. This is my 11th year here, so that’s something we’ve really ingrained in our kids - that hard work and that grit.”
In the midst of a quarterback battle, the seniors on the offensive side of the ball have taken it upon themselves to be the leaders of the group.
“Our quarterbacks, they’re both pretty young,” senior wide receiver Connor Ladner said. “Me and my teammate, one of my other receivers, we’re working with them after practice to make sure we’re all in sync and the offense is clicking.”
Defensively, the Rock-a-Chaws return nine starters from last year's squad - a lot of experience for a unit that will be relied upon in the early going.
“With losing most of our offense this year, our defense has to make up for all that,” senior linebacker Blake Bilich said. “We just have to do everything we’ve been doing, just a hundred times better. Now that we’ve been here with everybody, we have a lot of chemistry now, so we know exactly what we’re doing to do on and off the field.”
In his first two seasons as head coach, Encrapera has had his teams get hot at the right time, posting a combined 6-2 record in the month of October, propelling them into consecutive playoff appearances. And while the faces underneath the helmets may not be exactly the same, the team's proven attitude, preparation and effort certainly will.
“We start when we show up in the weight room on Sundays and we’re going to get ready for that next week. We’re 0-0, that’s always been our philosophy,” Encrapera said. “We’re going to play our best game - it’s kind of like a faceless opponent. We’re going to go out there and execute our gameplan to the best of our ability on Friday night, and let the chips fall where they may.”