PREVIEW: St. Vincent football team's returning pieces will fill new roles

Thursday, August 23, 2012
St. Vincent’s Trenton Gremaud fights for yardage after making a catch during the jamboree Friday in Perryville, Mo. (Laura Simon)

Trent Elder will go from leading receiver to offensive leader his senior season at St. Vincent.

Elder was the top target of former quarterback Tim Schumer, who graduated last spring after posting one of the top passing seasons in Southeast Missouri in 2011.

Elder pulled in 31 passes for a team-high 396 yards in the Indians' pass-heavy offense, but he's looking forward to returning to signal-caller, a position he played some his sophomore year when Schumer suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the 2010 season.

"I'm really excited to get back to it this year," Elder said. "It's my natural position, and I really enjoy it."

Elder admittedly struggled during his stint at quarterback two years ago, but it's a position he's played since youth football. And he's received more than passes from Schumer.

St. Vincent junior tailback Alex Winkler eludes a Potosi defender during the jamboree Friday in Perryville, Mo. (Laura Simon)

"Tim was a very good leader," Elder said. "What he did on and off the field really showed me how to step into his role."

Versatile junior Alex Winkler is the top returning rusher from last year's team, which graduated its top two rushers in Derek Joggerst and Schumer.

"Alex is going to be a huge part of our offense, and so is Jesse Francis," Elder said.

Winkler averaged nearly six yards a carry on 30 attempts last season, and he was right behind Elder in receiving with 29 catches for 334 yards. Francis had 20 receptions for 139 yards last year.

Winkler also was among area leaders with five interceptions as a sophomore.

"He's pretty solid on both sides of the ball," St. Vincent coach Paul Sauer said. "He's a good athlete. We've got a lot of good athletes. I think that's going to be a big key. Team speed and athleticism."

Winkler is looking forward to a bigger role.

"I think a lot of people are going to have to step up," Winkler said. "I think a lot of people are ready to play a bigger role and just get a lot more playing time."

Junior tight end Kevin Mattingly and senior Trenton Gremaud will provide targets for Elder, and senior Dylan Richardet, who was sidelined during preseason practices with a leg injury, will play fullback and assume kicking duties.

Winkler will play tailback in the I-formation and move outside to receiver in the spread.

"We're changing things up a little bit," Elder said. "We'll be running the ball out of the spread and we'll be doing a lot of different things. We've got a new offensive coordinator [Greg Finger].

"I would say if we can really get the spread running game down, that will be a major key to our offense. Last year we threw the ball a ton. We didn't have much of a running game, and that's what we want to get back to this year is running the ball well and getting back to a 50-50 balance of running and pass."

Levi Gotto and Richardet also will play a part in the running game.

The offensive line lost three starters but returns junior guard Zach Rollet and junior center Josh Mattingly, who missed much of last season with an injury. Derek Unterreiner, who also saw time at center, senior guard Lucas Carroll, senior tackle Dylan Helleman and junior tackle Josh Hunt also will play on the line.

"We're a little bigger than we've been the last couple of years," Sauer said about his line.

The Indians graduated leading tackler Taylor Sauer on the defensive side but return seven of their top 10 tacklers from last season.

"For the most part we've got a lot coming back on the defensive side," Sauer said. "I think our linebacking corps of Winkler, Gotto and [Josh] Mattingly I think will be pretty tough."

Winkler led the team in tackles last season, while Gotto and Lucas Carroll were tied for fourth.

"We've got a lot of kids that will step up and hit people," Winkler said. "We'll be an aggressive team."

The Indians, who were 4-6 and fell short of the playoffs last season, have dropped four opponents from last season, including Class 3 Park Hills and potential Class 1 Distict 1 opponent Chaffee.

Three new opponents include Class 3 schools Sumner and Lift for Life, as well as Jefferson R-7, a Class 2 school.

"If we can avoid the injury bug, I think we can mold into a pretty good football team," Sauer said.

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