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Rams, Rebels start chase for title

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 7, 1998

RESERVE – It is not often that a district championship has the potential to be decided in the first week of district play. But that could very well bethe case when Riverside travels to West St. John Friday night in theopening District 9-2A game for both teams.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at West St. John Stadium.Both teams come in ranked in the top 10 of this week’s Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 2A poll. Tenth-ranked Riverside enters thematchup with a 4-1 record while ninth-ranked West St. John hasrebounded from an 0-2 start to win its last three games.

The Rams and Rebels were the pick by many to compete for the district title. After all, the Rams have won five straight district titles splitbetween Class 1A and 2A and the Rebels captured the District 10-2A title in 1996.

Whether for district championships or for bragging rights, this matchup has been one of the best in the area in recent years, with 16 points separating the teams the past three seasons. West St. John has won twostraight, including a 26-17 victory last year, over their cross-parish rivals.

“It is as good and healthy a rivalry as any I have been associated with,” Riverside coach Mickey Roussel said. “There is mutual respect for theplayers and coaches. It has been good and I don’t think Friday is going to bedifferent. It is everything high school sports should represent.”West St. John coach Laury Dupont agreed.”It is a good rivalry,” Dupont said. “The winner of this game usually winsdistrict. It is going to be a war.”Both squads are different than the ones that advanced to the playoffs last year. West St. John has seen players like Adair Alexander, Joseph Grossand Donriel Borne graduate and running back/linebacker Dehaven Duronslet is out with an injury.

Jamar Bailey and Brent Poche have stepped up in Duronslet’s absence the past two games. Bailey had 111 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’28-6 victory over Port Sulphur Friday, following a 97-yard performance against Donaldsonville. Poche added 63 yards and a touchdown Fridaynight.

The passing attack has also stepped up. Carl Gauthier passed for 269 yardsagainst Donaldsonville and came back to complete 10 of his 19 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown against Port Sulphur. Brian Lumar has beenGauthier’s favorite target, catching five passes for 103 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown, Friday night. Lumar had five catches for 120 yards andthree touchdowns against Donaldsonville.

There were concerns about the offense but Dupont said that in hindsight there were contributing factors to the lack of offensive production. Thefirst game was played against St. James which has shown to be one of thebest teams in the state and the second against Plaquemine was played in sloppy conditions with neither offense moving the ball. Dupont alsocontribute the success to an improved attitude and increased competition at positions.

The West St. John defense led the way against Port Sulphur, twicestopping the Bronchos inside the Rams’ 5-yard line. The Rams forced fivefumbles, recovering two, and intercepted two passes, including one by Arlanda Comminie at the goal line.

“I thought we played good,” Dupont said. “The defense played well.Pendarvis Morris and Jagen Lewis played an outstanding game. We aregetting better.”That defense will be challenged by a balanced Riverside offense that is averaging 31 points a game this season after switching to the Wing-T.

“The thing I have been pleased with on the offensive side of the ball is our consistency,” Riverside coach Mickey Roussel said. “We have been steady.Ask any coach if he could have one thing and would be consistency.”In Riverside’s 35-7 win over Parkview Baptist Friday night, the Rebels had 263 yards rushing and 108 through the air. Casey Remondet led the waywith 93 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. The two touchdownsgave him eight for the season. Britt Waguespack is not far behind, adding atwo-point conversion Friday night to the six touchdowns he has scored this season. Roussel has also been impressed with the play of BrandonDelaneuville, pointing to his 8.2 yards per carry average. Joey Poirrier continues to rank among the leading signal callers in the area, completing 8-of-13 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

Poirrier also ran in for a score. For the season, he has attempted 64passes, completing 33 for 542 yards and four touchdowns.

Poirrier’s top target has been Keith Leblanc who caught five passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns against Parkview. Leblanc has caught 16 passesfor 308 yards and three scores this season.

Roussel gave credit to the offensive line, saying that it can play the finess game as well as smash-mouth football.

“The offensive line has been a pleasure to watch,” Roussel said.

The Rebels defense has also come on, allowing just 13 points over the last two games. Riverside held Parkview to 209 yards in the game andrecovered three fumbles.

Both teams have been bitten by the injury bug lately. West St. John will bewithout Duronslet and linebacker/ running back Torrian Thomas has been listed as doubtful as well as split end/defensive back Chad Grows. ForRiverside, receiver Rusty Richard is out with a sprained ankle and defensive end Ranney Wilson and offensive lineman Kent Louque are doubtful.

Both coaches said the game will come down to turnovers.

“It is going to be who makes the fewest mistakes in the turnover category that will be the difference in the game,” Dupont said.

West St. John came up with a number of big plays last year and Rousselsaid those must be avoided this year if his team is to have a chance.

“Turnovers and no big plays,” Roussel said of the keys to the game. “Thedefense cannot give up big plays. Everybody says 1998 football is socomplicated. No it isn’t. You have to execute on offense and tackle ondefense.”Last year, it was the West St. John defense that came up big, stopping twoRiverside drives in Rams territory in the final quarter. Joseph Gross alsointercepted a pass and returned it 90 yards for a score. Duronslet rushedfor 160 yards while Gross added 123. Poirrier led the Rebels with 206yards passing.

West St. John travels to Metairie to play St. Martin’s while Riversidehosts another cross-parish rival in St. Charles Catholic.

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