Rams’ Valdez to clash withformer team

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011



EDGARD — Facing a rough-and-tumble predistrict schedule packed with bigger schools has become tradition at West St. John, as the Rams harden themselves for the Class 1A district and playoff seasons.

Indeed, the Rams (2-1) began a stretch of three games against teams in Class 4A or 5A last week as it fell to Bonnabel, 24-7, in a game that saw the Bruins score 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away.

This week, the task is no easier. McKinley, the program that Valdez headed prior to becoming head coach at West St. John, is next on the slate.

McKinley is a 5A school that comes into the game at 2-1 and returns 17 starters from a team that went 7-4 last season and reached the postseason. The Rams will be the visitors; they won’t likely get lost.

“Yes, I certainly know how to get there,” said Valdez with a laugh when asked about coaching against his former team. “They’re tough. It’s another 5A school with tremendous numbers. They’re physical, very big.”

The Panthers defeated Class 2A Capitol and Class 3A Glen Oaks by a combined margin of 102-13 before falling at 4A Northside, 26-2.

The team is powered by a physical offensive line and a stout running game led by returning All-District running back Lenard Tillery. But Tillery has been limited by injury this season, and Brandon Butler, Phil Randall and Tyrone Scott have all pitched in to produce at tailback.

The Rams don’t boast the size McKinley has, so Valdez will look to get his best players the ball with space to operate and take an advantage of any speed advantage the Rams may have.

“They’re one of the biggest teams we’ll see size wise. They play a physical, attacking type of defense,” he ssaid

A strong rushing attack was the key for Bonnabel Friday night. Darius Gardner scored two touchdowns and topped 100 yards rushing for Bonnabel.

Kylum Favorite led West St. John’s rushing attack with 44 yards on 16 carries. Jarius Moll scored his team’s lone touchdown, scoring on an 18-yard pass from Austin Howard just before halftime — it cut a two-touchdown Bruins lead to 14-7 .

But Bonnabel scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to close it out, including two 30-plus yard scoring runs.

“They wore us out a little,” said Valdez. “They’ve got a good running back and he made a big difference.”