Published 12:00 am Monday, December 6, 2004

West St. John battles St. Helena in Superdome for 2A title



NEW ORLEANS – A “Ram Repeat.”

That is the goal for West St. John on Friday night in the Nokia Sugar Bowl Prep Classic.

The Rams of West St. John will be making their second straight appearance in the 2A football title game, hoping to make it two straight crowns for the impressive program on the west side of the river run by coach Laury Dupont. Kickoff in the New Orleans Superdome is set for 5 p.m.

“It’s always tough to repeat, but I do believe we have a chance to win the game,” Dupont said, entering his 18th year coaching the Rams. “Some people think the advantage is because we won it last year, but I think the advantage is because we were just in it. Our kids know what to expect this week, they know the routine, and that will help them relax and be ready to play.”

West St. John enters the state title game after a thrilling 12-6 win over Northeast last week in the state semi-finals.

The Rams had to rally in the final minute of the game, as superstar running back Patrick Jackson caught a screen pass from Juan Joseph and ran 38 yards for a TD that broke the 6-6 tie, sending WSJ on to the win.

Meanwhile, St. Helena is in the state championship game for the first time in school history after beating Mamou, 12-6, in their semi-final contest.

“They are a team that knows how to win big games, even though they have never made it this far before,” Dupont said. “They are not as big as Northeast was last week, but they are tall and rangy and create a lot of trouble with their defense.”

But the Indians will have their hands full slowing down a potent West St. John offense, led by top Division I prospect Jackson.

The powerful and speedy back for the Rams is leading the state in rushing this year with 2,750 touchdowns, along with a huge total of 49 TD’s scored on the ground.

Meanwhile, Joseph has provided a potent passing game to compliment Jackson’s ground attack, something that was vital in the win last week.

“Juan proved he can throw the ball last week because Northeast loaded up on Patrick and slowed him down,” Dupont said. “I imagine St. Helena saw the films and will try to do the same thing this week.”

However Joseph has passed successfully when he has had to, even though Jackson has been the workhorse of the offense. Joseph has a solid total of 1,645 yards through the air and 14 touchdowns.

“The St. Helena defense is very aggressive, and they will throw a lot of stunts at us,” Dupont noted. “We’ve got to be ready for almost anything.”

Offensively, the Indians sport a pair of talented backs who run out of a few basic sets, but do it very effectively.

“They are mainly a running team and their quarterback has been inconsistent, although he can be good at times. But the main thing that is impressive about them is that they do things very well, and with few mistakes,” the Ram coach commented.

Dupont, who has guided West. John to the playoffs every year since he has coached there, said that it will likely come down to what he calls the “intangibles” to win the game.

“These kinds of games almost always come down to a big play, or a big turnover,” he said. “People think these things are all physical, but it really will come down to the mental mistakes. That’s a big reason we beat Northeast last week. They had 12 men on the field on a big play late in the game. Instead of a big gain into our territory they got backed up, and we got the ball and won the game.”

West St. John, now 12-2 on the season, entered the playoffs as the number four seed and beat the top seeded Northeast team last week. This week they play a St. Helena club which has been upsetting teams all along the way to make the title game, as they entered the 2A playoffs as only the 12th seed.

“That doesn’t matter now,” Dupont noted. “They have proven they can win the big games and the hardest thing for any team to do is repeat. But like I said, I think we have a chance to do it.”

On defense, the club is led by a pair of Division I prospects in defensive back Ray Bartholomew and defensive end Darrell Morris, while tackle Denarold Anderson and linebacker Initius Howard are also drawing college interest. Other leaders in the defense are tackle Talon Gauchier, cornerback Aaron Morris and linebacker Kelly Burks.