Football Preview: Abbeville ups the ante in 2021

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In 2020, Abbeville had a season full of highs and lows. The Wildcats finished the regular season with a record of 3-4 to earn a playoff spot but were immediately bounced from the postseason by St. James, 43-10, in the first round.

The loss marked a disappointing end to the career of Jaiden O’Brien, a three-year starter for Abbeville at quarterback. Losing him will be a blow for the offense in 2021 but head coach Roderick Moy is more than confident that this year’s team will build off the experience they gained last year.

“We look to be much improved just because of getting a full summer of install and a much-upgraded coaching staff,” said Moy.

In Moy’s first year as head coach of Abbeville, the team was respectable in a very tough district. After the usual circumstances of last season due to the global pandemic, now teams around the state are returning to a somewhat normal offseason.

“Being able to get in a full summer of 7-on-7 work, being able to teach and being able to be face to face to these kids, we are very excited about this senior class because we know this is the class we want to build off of,” notes Moy.

One senior who made a big impact last year was running back Blake Saddler (5’10”, 160), who carried the ball 119 times for 765 yards and nine touchdowns last year for the Wildcats. He will likely receive a similar workload, but it would not be surprising to see him get more touches as a result of Abbeville’s run first mentality.

Junior tight end Nalen St. Julien (6’0”, 185) led the Wildcats in receiving last year with 152 yards and a touchdown. He gives their offense a weapon through the air that will look to keep defenses modest and not allow them to solely commit to defending the run.

“If we are able to throw the ball at a high level this year, I know we are going to be able to run the ball,” Moy explained. “If we are able to be balanced, we’re going to be a scary football team.” Despite the amount of success the Wildcats had on the ground last season, Moy and company are looking to add more dimensions to their offense.

Another senior that will make a big impact this year is cornerback McKinsey Nicholas (6’0”, 160) who had three interceptions last season. He had 112 return yards on his interceptions last year, without getting to the end zone, yet Nicholas is so difficult to put on the ground once he gets the ball in his hands.

“I think we have one of the best corners in the state in McKinsey Nicholas,” Moy said. “His ability to lock down one side of the field allows us to be able to do so many things on defense.”

Abbeville will also rely on linebacker Jason Alvarez (5’8”, 145), last season’s leading tackler who racked up 54 stops and three sacks. He will be expected to have similar if not better numbers this year.

The Wildcats begin their 2021 season with a trip to Natchitoches to play St. Mary’s in week one. The following week will be a home game with the Central Catholic Eagles will be coming to town. The Vermilion Catholic Eagles then visit for the big battle for bragging rights in Abbeville.

Week four is the first of three straight road games for the Wildcats, starting with Northside in Lafayette follo3wed by a trek to face the Tigers of Opelousas Senior High and then the first district game of the year for AHS at St. Martinville, who won last year’s matchup 24-13.

The following Friday, Abbeville will be back on their home field to face the Crowley Gents. The Wildcats were the victors of last year’s affair in comfortable fashion, 46-12. In week 8, Abbeville will be hosting the Rayville Hornets for their sixth non-district game of the year.

The second to last regular season game for the Wildcats will be a road game at the Kaplan Pirates. Last season’s matchup was won by the Pirates as they beat Abbeville by two scores, 30-20, winning the much-coveted Russo Trophy. Kaplan has held the trophy for the last 16 years so the emphasis and finally taking the Russo home with be notable at AHS.

The final regular season game for the Wildcat’s will be another district opponent, the Erath Bobcats ,in Abbeville.

“I think it’s tough, I think it will prepare us for our ultimate goal of winning playoff games,” Moy said. “We feel like the three games we play coming out of the gate are going to be substantial. I believe one of those three teams will be in the Dome,” Moy said.

These early tests will either propel the Wildcats to further success or hamper their postseason campaign but one thing is certain – Moy’s team will be battle tested come week four.

“It’s all about winning playoff games, hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to be able to host a playoff game and then to win it no matter where it is,” Moy said.

Moy has high hopes and aspirations for his squad that may depend on a fast start at the beginning of the year to be in position for a playoff run.

“A lot of people make the playoffs, but if you are winning playoff games coming from where we were, that’s a big step in the right direction and that’s the football team we want to be,” Moy said.

Getting to the postseason is an accomplishment but simply making it in will not satisfy Abbeville this time around. How a team performs in the postseason is the benchmark by which Moy judges successful teams, and how he will judge his own.

“Winning our two rivalry games and bringing some pride back to this side of the river along with the Russo Trophy,” Moy said. “Then winning a playoff game. If we are able to do that it will definitely be a successful season in my eyes.”

The goals are ambitious but necessary for building a sustainable winning culture in Abbeville for future teams. It can start by winning the games that they have circled on the calendar in 2021.

Click here for more CCS Prep Football team previews (including archives of past season previews).

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