WATSON -- Heading into his team's spring game in early May, Live Oak coach Brett Beard had questions about his secondary. A little over a month later, he might have found an answer.
After the secondary fell victim to roster turnover, most notably McNeese State signee Eli Johnson’s departure, sophomore Aiden Saunders has flourished in the opportunity to prove his mettle in the defensive backfield.
“Last year I struggled with thinking if I would be ready,” Saunders said. “I didn’t know if I should be here. But coming out here and being able to make these plays, it boosts my confidence. Getting an opportunity is huge.”
Saunders put on a show in Wednesday’s Baton Rouge Metro 7-on-7 League, recording four pass breakups and overseeing a Live Oak defense that held their three opponents to a paltry 10 completions on 43 attempts for 226 yards. In the final game of the meet, the Eagles held Slaughter Community Charter to just 2-of-14 for 50 yards total.
“I’m not expected to be the greatest yet, but I’m expected to have a lot on my shoulders,” Saunders said. “Especially when I play varsity with guys who are amazing athletes and are five-star recruits at Zachary, Scotlandville, and Walker. It’s definitely a challenge but it’s a way for me to get better.”
“He’s filling some big shoes,” Beard said. “He’s a kid I honestly believe is ahead of the curve. He is a sophomore, but he really has the mind of a veteran. He understands the game, he knows what he’s doing, he works on his craft, and he studies. The kid is really a football player and he really has some things about him that not every kid has. Which is going to make him a special player. Not just physically but mentally. The kid gets it.”
The Live Oak offense improved from its showing a week ago, going 22-for-45 for 353 yards in their three sessions. Newly minted starting quarterback Rhett Rosevear went 13-28 for 195 yards, while Darian Ricard reeled in seven catches for 110 yards, averaging 15.7 yards per catch in addition to an interception and pass breakup on defense.
Byron Donahue made five catches for 86 yards, good for a 17.2 yards per catch average.
In their first game against Ponchatoula and LSU commitment TJ Finley, the Eagles' defense shined brightly. They limited the Green Wave to four completions on 17 attempts for 95 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass. That coincided with Live Oak’s best offensive showing of the day where the Eagles went 10-for-15 for 155 yards. Donahue reeled in two touchdowns while Ricard caught a 45-yard strike.
After a sluggish outing last week, Beard was pleased with the effort he saw from both sides of the ball in the penultimate 7-on-7 meet of the year.
“I thought we were dialed in and excited about doing our job,” Beard said. “We were better this week than we were in week one, which is telling me that we’re doing the right thing.”