Rams place 5 on All-State squad

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012



EDGARD — West St. John’s senior class leave the prep football ranks as one of the school’s most accomplished ever.

It led the Rams to two consecutive state semifinals and a state runner-up finish. It formed the heart of a team that secured two district championships and that went 17-2 within Class 1A over the past two seasons. This senior class went 4-0 over rival St. James.

And as of this week, West St. John placed five players from that senior class upon the Class 1A All-State team, as voted on by he Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

Kylum Favorite earned his second consecutive All-State honor, and is joined on the team by teammates Dontre Turner, Eric Bell, Micah Claiborne and Justin Bethancourt.

WSJ’s Austin Howard and Jermoine Nora earned honorable mention honors.

“These kids paid the price and helped lift our program to where it stands now,” said West St. John coach Robert Valdez. “I’m so excited for them and happy to see these guys get this kind of recognition. To get five says a lot about this class and about the program.”

Favorite rushed for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season while also making major contributions as a receiver. He piled up those numbers despite sharing touches in the backfield with teammate Jeremy Jackson, who also turned in a strong campaign.

The duo regularly played on the field together, causing headaches for defensive coaches.

“Every week, teams came in and tried to take him out, to not let him get going,” said West St. John coach Robert Valdez. “He took a lot of shots, a lot of hits … He maintained his work ethic through it all. He’s had two great seasons back to back.

“His last game with us was memorable … he made some spectacular plays and ran for over 200 yards.”

Claiborne, the team’s left guard, was a big factor in the Rams compiling so much offensive success, particularly on the ground.

Valdez praised his toughness before anything else.

“He’s played hurt over the past couple of seasons. But man, he played hard,” said Valdez. “He anchored our offensive line and made all of the calls. He’s a strong run blocker who worked and improved in a big way in pass protection. He just made us a better team.”

Observers of the Rams defense couldn’t go very long without noticing Turner, the team’s hyper-intense and productive linebacker who stepped onto center stage after the graduation of current LSU linebacker Ronnie Feist.

“He was the centerpiece,” said Valdez. “Our scheme is built around speed and having those athletic linebackers. He was the quarterback of our defense.

“Dontre always looked to set the tone with those bone-crushing hits. I want my kids to play with emotion and intensity, and he exemplified that.

Bell, a defensive tackle who committed to Tulane before the season, was the lynchpin of a strong Rams line. Bell made 47 tackles, 17 for a loss, while collecting six sacks. He forced four fumbles.

Valdez said much of what the team did defensively started up front with Bell’s ability to wreak havoc at the line.

“He was Dontre’s best friend because he kept blockers off of him,” said Valdez. “Defensive tackles don’t always get those eye-popping stats. Eric’s game is all about disruption of the opponent’s blocking scheme, getting into the backfield. He’s a tall, athletic kid that can run and that’s the type of guy they’ve been looking for on the next level.”

Bethancourt wore two important hats: one of the team’s top cornerback and coverman, the other as one of the state’s more dangerous returnmen. He returned six punts for touchdowns and intercepted six passes.

“I still remember a 7-on-7 game during the summer … We were down, but their quarterback made the mistake of attacking the wrong guy and Justin picked them off,” said Valdez. “He’s an aggressive corner and could make it look effortless.

“We liked to match him up in man against the other team’s best receiver and play everyone else in zone … that type of cover man is priceless.”