Rams, Wildcats set for Railroad Classic

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013


LAPLACE—Since Jarius Moll’s goalline strip and runback led to a miraculous West St. John overtime win over St. James in the 2011 season opener, the rival teams haven’t squared off.
Much has changed since then.
For the Rams, it served as a springboard to West St. John reemerging as a state power,  reaching the Superdome in 2011 and the Class 1A semifinals in 2012.
For the Wildcats, it was the first loss in what would become a nightmarish two-season winless stretch that led to the firing of Coach James Bell and the hiring of Lutcher offensive coordinator Dwain Jenkins to head the program entering this season.
Much like the Rams used that win two years ago as a springboard, St. James travels to Edgard this Friday night in hopes of doing the same. Jenkins has stressed his commitment to getting the St. James community excited about Wildcats football again, and a win over the Rams would ignite interest in a big way.
“When you look at the state of the program over the past two years, (a win) would be a breathe of fresh air,” said Jenkins. “It gives us a defined goal to kick things off, to have a fresh, strong start and begin the process of rebuilding this into a strong program once again.”
West St. John coach Robert Valdez knows this. He’s making sure his players understand that fact as well.
“There will be a lot of emotion,” said Valdez. “Both communities have had a lot of success in football over the years. For St. James, they’ve had this game earmarked as a jumping off point to their rebuilding process. Especially early on, the emotions will run high. For us, we’re excited to have the opportunity to host a game like this.”
“We want to make this the biggest game in the River Parishes,” said Valdez, who is 3-0 against the Wildcats in his tenure as Rams coach.
The game will be televised on Cox Sports Television as its game of the week.
The teams faced comparable Class 5A foes in jamboree action last week. The Rams fell 21-12 at home to East St. John, while the Wildcats absorbed a 37-13 loss at Hahnville.
Valdez said he had mixed emotions about the jamboree loss, noting that while he saw plenty of good things from his players while faced with a much bigger foe, he felt that the Rams had chances to put themselves in better position for a win.
“As coaches, we don’t go out there for moral victories,” he said. “It’s a mixed bag in terms of emotions, as far as we’re concerned.”
At the same time, he vowed that St. James’ tough night last Thursday would not be on the minds of his players this time out.
“We have a special formula for that, and it’s called intense practices,” said Valdez with a laugh. “We’re just making sure that we’re mentally prepared. But at the end of the day, you throw records out the window when it comes to rivalry games. They’re gonna bring it to us. Our kids know what’s at stake and we know we can expect anything. They’re an extremely fast team. Their defense is relentless and there is absolutely no quit in them.”