Rams won’t forgive or forget Bulldogs

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2013


LAPLACE – It was the one truly early postseason exit by coach Robert Valdez’s West St. John Rams.
First round, 2010 playoffs: White Castle 12, West St. John 0.
It was the first postseason victory for White Castle en route to a state championship win. And Valdez hasn’t forgotten.
“It’s a bitter memory, and I don’t let go of things that easily,” Valdez quipped. “They’ll have our full attention.”
West St. John (7-2, 4-0) travels to White Castle (6-3, 3-1) this Friday night with the District 8-1A championship on the line. The Rams have secured at least a share of the title, but White Castle can earn a split crown by upsetting the No. 4 ranked team in Class 1A.
Being on the other end of the Rams’ attention span hasn’t been a comfortable experience for opposing teams this season, and particularly of late. West St. John is rolling along on a five-game winning streak, all decided by 16 points or more.
White Castle, meanwhile, has won three of its last four, losing just once in district play, 17-14 to St. John-Plaquemine. The Bulldogs edged Ascension Catholic last week, 14-12.
“Any time you have a rivalry like this, you see great competition between the teams. They bring out the best in us,” said Valdez. “They’re a good football team. And in so many sports, really, our two schools compete at a high level with one another.”
The Bulldogs won that state championship in 2010 on the back of an explosive offense. But this year’s team relies upon its defense to generate wins. White Castle has allowed 18 points or less in seven of its nine games this season. It is 6-1 in those contests.
“This team is full of speed,” said Valdez. “They’re not the biggest team we’ve faced, but they may be the quickest and the fastest. Defensively, they put as much speed on the field as possible. They look to disrupt you up front.”
Holding the Rams to less than 18 would be a Herculean task. The Rams have scored 62, 48, 54 and 56 points thus far against Class 1A competition.
Valdez said that his offensive line is facing challenges that come with opposing a quicker defensive front.
“It’s a little bit of a different scenario,” said Valdez. “The offensive line needs to play faster. They need to get to their blocks quicker and hold them longer because White Castle moves so well.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs run the Wing-T option. Jacory Jones leads the team at quarterback, while Daryl Young is the team’s top tailback. Robert Franklin offers an explosive vertical threat at receiver.
In White Castle’s most productive offensive outing of the season, a 66-6 win over Ascension Christian Oct. 26, each of the three players accounted for two touchdowns.
It’ll be a key road trip for West St. John, but Valdez said the Rams have grown accustomed to it. This will be West St. John’s seventh road outing of the season.
Tailback Jeremy Jackson will attempt to end a stellar regular season with a bang. Jackson rushed 10 times for 148 yards and a touchdown last week, bringing his season totals to 112 attempts for 1,298 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s averaging 11.6 yards per carry.
A win for the Rams would almost certainly cement a top five seed, and the bye week that will come with it in the first round of the playoffs.
Valdez called it a double-edged sword, noting that while a first round game would allow his team to stay sharp and in routine, a bye week would afford his players the opportunity to rest and for those dealing with injury to heal.
“But when you get down to it, we just want to be in the dance. Our plan is to go out and play our best ball this Friday and let the chips fall where they may on Sunday,” said Valdez.