‘Hurry-up’ Rams look to wear out Eagles

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012



EDGARD — On the morning of his team’s most important game of the season, West St. John coach Robert Valdez let his Rams know that the gameplan for the night would resemble the usual West St. John blueprint.

Only much, much faster.

With an eye toward wearing out White Castle in a game that was likely to determine the champion of District 9-1A, Valdez and his staff decided to accelerate its no-huddle offense and playcalling, pushing the game’s tempo and supercharging its snap count.

Valdez said that the offensive philosophy takes a page from the Oregon Ducks and the New England Patriots, simplifying playcalling at the line to encourage more plays and less shuffling of the opposition’s defensive personnel.

It certainly doesn’t hurt, either, that the Rams can attack with two All-State caliber rushers in Kylum Favorite and Jeremy Jackson, sending relatively fresh legs at the defense play after play. Or that their quarterback, junior Austin Howard, has almost 30 starts of experience to his name.

“I was watching the Oregon game last Thursday night and asked, ‘Did you guys see this?’” said Valdez. “I said, ‘I think we can handle this pace. So we got to it, talked, and figured out how we could make it work.”

The results were certainly promising in the Rams’ 41-22 victory last week. WSJ led 12-10 after the first half, marching into the White Castle redzone in three of its first five possessions.

In the second half, the Rams either reached the Bulldogs’ redzone or scored in all six of its possessions.

“We call it our ‘rabbit’ package, our hurry-up offense,” said Valdez. “On Friday, it seemed like in the second half, the holes were opening a little wider and wider.

“We have some cerebral kids. They’re picking up the scheme.”

One can expect that pace to continue Friday against St. John-Plaquemine when the Rams go on the road.

St. John contended for the District 9-1A championship last season. But the Eagles lost the majority of starters from that senior-laden team and have struggled in 2012, entering the week with a 1-6 record.

That lone win did come last week, a 40-6 victory over East Iberville.

“You never want to let your guard down, certainly not in this spot,” said Valdez. “If we want to win this district outright, we need to win the next two. We had a very tough practice today (Monday) in terms of our running game. I think our focus level is where it needs to be.”

St. John is a run-heavy, Wing-T based team that loads the box on defense, employing a base 4-4.

That could open up some opportunities down the field for West St. John’s wide receivers. Against White Castle, Keith Miller and Laffarin Stipe each made explosive plays to help the Rams separate from the Bulldogs.

“I’m so very proud of Keith,” said Valdez. “Edgard can be a tough place to play. A lot of people who criticized my decision to play him early on, when he wasn’t making plays. We stuck with him. He kind of had his grand debut Friday … We know what he’s capable of.”

Stipe, a senior who transferred from Hahnville, had to wait for the LHSAA to rule him eligible to play. His 59-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter on Friday pushed West St. John out to a 28-16 lead.

“He’s been through a lot,” said Valdez. “He’s another that I’m very, very proud of, and I’m glad to see him out there making the most of his opportunities.”

But for all the explosiveness of the vertical passing game, one can expect another steady diet of Favorite and Jackson, the team’s workhorses.

“The more I get the ball to those two, the smarter they make me look as a coach,” said Valdez with a laugh.