Playoffs Week 3: West St. John at Haynesville, Friday, 7 p.m.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011





Before a battle of traditional Class 1A powers, it was reasonable to expect a classic game and finish. By all accounts, that’s what West St. John and Haynesville provided.

Only one team could advance to the state semifinals, and it indeed was the Rams who came away with a 15-8 state quarterfinal victory on the road, sealing things late on a Kylum Favorite 30-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left in the game.

West St. John is now set to travel in the state semifinals to face undefeated second seed Vermilion Catholic, which defeated Westminster 41-28.

The Rams had just lost their lead minutes earlier, when Haynesville’s Mikhell Cooper recovered a Rams’ fumble in the endzone for a score. Levert James officially tied the game with 4:54 left on the clock on a 2-point conversion run.

West St. John held an 8-0 lead throughout most of the night, points generated on Jarius Moll’s 61-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Austin Howard. Favorite pounded in the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0.

Moll finished with two catches for 73 yards to lead all receivers.

Favorite rushed 15 times for 116 yards. Howard completed three of 10 passes for 83 yards.






Special to L’Observateur

EDGARD — West St. John has a heck of a ride ahead of it on Friday. Literally — although, incidentally, it comes because the Rams are on one heck of a ride figuratively.

The sixth-seeded Rams (10-2) are set to square off with third-seeded Haynesville (10-1) in a Class 1A state semifinal game. To do so, WSJ will travel to a school just south of the Arkansas border.

“As a 1A team, it’s the longest road trip we can take,” said Rams coach Robert Valdez.

But Valdez believes that if such a trip is to materialize, better on a week like this, where the Thanksgiving holidays allow players the chance to rest up. Another positive, he said, is that such a trip offers an opportunity for players to bond.

But that is all prelude to when the ball is kicked — then it’s a matter of two of 1A’s top contenders vying to take their season one step further.

The Rams couldn’t be coming off of a more impressive win. Just weeks after downing district rival St. John-Plaquemine in the regular season, 36-20, it dominated in a 40-7 win over the Eagles.

“Right now, we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said Valdez. “We’re peaking at a good time. The first time we played them, I think our defense took it personally. They moved the ball, and I don’t think our guys felt they played up to their capability. They came out with a chip on their shoulder and did a tremendous job.”

Much like St. John runs, the Golden Tornadoes rely on their Wing-T option offense to move the ball. The main difference between the two attacks comes down to the utilization of the quarterback. While the Eagles rely largely on their top two tailbacks, Christian Primeaux and Davante Williams, Haynesville uses its quarterback DeMarcus Jackson extensively as a runner, giving the team a different dimension from that the Rams have seen recently.

“He’s their catalyst. He’s extremely athletic,” said Valdez. “The quarterback’s going to keep it a lot more than the other Wing-T teams we’ve seen to this point. They’ve got a couple of speedy running backs … They’ve got as much speed as we do.”

Jackson is also the team’s starting strong safety and its primary kick returner. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound all-purpose threat returned an interception and a punt for scores, in addition to a 97-yard effort on the ground.

Tailback Levert James rushed 20 times for 130 yards last week as well.

Haynesville’s only loss came to Natchitoches Central. It defeated Plain Dealing 58-22 in the first round, then edged Christian Life, 31-29, last week. It has scored 30 points or more in seven of its 11 games.

While Jackson will be a marked man by the Rams’ defense, sophomore WSJ passer Austin Howard made a big mark last week in the team’s win over St. John (8-4).

Howard was nearly flawless, completing 18 of 22 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

“I felt confident tonight,” Howard said. “The coaches gave us a good game plan. It was unique, but I have to give credit to the coaches, the O-line and the receivers for making plays when I put it in the air.

“When I started for the first time, I was only 13 years old. Now that I’ve developed, it’s game time.”

The WSJ defense never allowed the St. John rushing attack to gain any momentum, holding its opponents to 99 yards in total offense.

The majority of that yardage came on a fourth quarter 63-yard touchdown run with Rams reserves on the field.

“I thought they had the best defensive personnel in our class, and they proved it,” St. John Coach Tut Musemeche said.

“They have a championship look to them, and I think they can represent their school and our district extremely well in the next couple of weeks.”

The Rams grabbed momentum early after Eagles junior punter Morgan Booksh bobbled a fourth-down snap and went down at his own 24 yard line with 10:37 remaining in the first quarter. Five plays later, Howard completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Jarius Moll, and after a missed extra point, WSJ grabbed a 6-0 lead.

Moll finished the game as Howard’s leading receiver, grabbing six balls for 139 yards. Senior Lawrence Williams caught Howard’s other touchdown pass, a 21-yard dart in the corner of the end zone during the second quarter, and finished with two receptions for 44 yards.

Freshman running back Jeremy Jackson, still making his way back from injury, extended the Rams lead. Jackson converted a fourth-and-short toss play and sped 39 yards for a touchdown, which gave West St. John a 12-0 advantage with 11:50 left in the half after a failed two-point conversion.

Jackson finished as the team’s leading rusher with 66 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries. Junior Kylum Favorite finished closed behind with 62 yards on 18 carries.

In the third quarter, the Rams sealed the win after recovering an Eagles fumble on their second play of the half. Jackson took the ball into the end zone with 6:43 remaining in the period just four plays later.

The extra point was blocked, but WSJ went up 25-0, essentially putting the game out of reach.

West St. John tallied 265 yards of total offense at halftime and finished with 487 yards.