Youthful Rams set to take field in 2010 for West St. John

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010



EDGARD — To call the West St. John Rams a new look squad would be something of an understatement.

For each of the first two seasons of Robert Valdez’s tenure as WSJ coach, he’s had a decidedly veteran unit, particularly on offense, where four-year starter Dray Joseph held the reins at quarterback alongside fellow veteran rusher Kenneth Dabney in the Ram backfield.

But both have moved on, two of 15 departed seniors.

“It goes back to the old saying, you’ve gotta coach ‘em up,” said Valdez. “Especially with young kids, you’ve got a lot of work to do as a coaching staff. You need to put them in the right spots to succeed, so they can play with confidence, play fast, and play aggressive. These are good kids. It’s a fun group to work with.

“But we better be ready to play quickly.”

As per usual at West St. John, the schedule is unforgiving. The Rams face Riverside in the annual River Parishes Jamboree, then will host St. James to begin the regular season. Challenges with Bonnabel, St. Charles Catholic, Donaldsonville and East Jefferson await.

Then comes district play, where St. John-Plaquemine and White Castle both boast contenders.

Even before the Rams get to the business of trying to return to the Superdome (their last trip came as state-runner up in 2007), they will have few chances to catch their breath.

“Nobody’s gonna pity you because you’re young,” said Valdez. “We have to be ready to roll.”

The team is especially young offensively, boasting virtually an entirely new group of skill starters. The exception there would be Jarius Moll, a returning standout wide receiver. But even Moll will be in new territory, as he will step in at quarterback.

It won’t be his only role.

“We’re going to have him all over the field,” said Valdez. “He’ll play quarterback, we’ll move him out at receiver, he’ll return kicks and play defensive back when he can. Jarius is a great kid with great attributes, and we’re looking for him to break out.”

Defensively, the team replaces most of its secondary, as All-State DB Corey Warmington and All-District defenders Chris Gauthier and Ravone Owens have moved on.

But even with all of the youth, the young coach retains the same high hopes he’s had entering each of the previous two seasons. While young, it’s a group that has been entrenched in his program throughout his tenure.

“They know how we like to do things. They know what we focus on at this time of year, on getting stronger and playing faster,” Valdez said.

“It’s exciting. Honestly, if you’re a coach in late July and you aren’t excited, then your prospects for the upcoming season probably aren’t looking too good.”