‘Cinderella’ St. James on to quarterfinals

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013


LAPLACE – Before his first season as St. James head football coach, Dwain Jenkins spoke of his number one goal for the year to come: to restore the excitement level that once surrounded the Wildcats program, a former state power trying to bounce back after two winless seasons.
That mission is unequivocally accomplished. The Wildcats are officially on a Cinderella playoff run after their thrilling 42-40 Class 2A regional round victory over Sterlington, a victory that came in what could potentially be the last game ever played at St. James current stadium. The Wildcats are set to move into a new building next season.
The Wildcats are now set to travel to No. 3 seed Kinder in a quarterfinal game this week. But last Friday was a milestone, a celebration that served as a cathartic release for a team, school and community that for over two years had to wonder if or when this feeling would ever return.
“It was a great night at our stadium, a night where everyone showed up to see us play,” said Jenkins. “For it to maybe be the last game played there, and maybe one of the greatest, memorable games played there given the ramifications …’
“The community’s so proud of its football tradition. It had fallen so far, but Friday night felt like something of a rebirth.”
The arm of one newcomer and the legs of a senior who had suffered through all of the losses have driven much of the excitement.
Freshman quarterback Lowell Narcisse has been on fire over what’s been a three game win streak for SJH.
Narcisse has thrown 12 touchdowns, just one interception and rushed for six more scores over the three-game sample, averaging six total scores a game.
Senior wide receiver D’kwan Sandolph has been his favorite target all season. But though he led the River Region in receiving yardage and scores in the regular season, his production has yet grown along with his passer’s. He’s tallied 19 receptions for 437 yards and seven touchdowns – while passing for another – over the three-game streak.
Narcisse dealt with a recurring lower back injury this season, but received a clean bill of health during a doctor’s visit in Week 9.
That peace of mind, as well as that week off of practice, has done wonders for Narcisse’s confidence level and physical well-being, said Jenkins.
“People are now starting to see how good he’ll be,” he said. “He was literally dealing with growing pains. When we started 10 months ago, I was taller than he is. I’m 6-foot-1. He’s taller than I am now. He’s grown two or three inches.”
A young offensive line has also come a long way — the Wildcats start two 8th graders, two sophomores and a junior.
After an 0-4 start, St. James has averaged 37 points per game over its last eight, including five games with 40 points or more.
Defensively, Aquindas Steib has emerged in a big way. He led SJH with 47.5 total tackles in the regular season. Kollon Steib was behind him with 40.5 while racking up three sacks. Angelios Washington chimed in with 42 tackles and a sack entering the postseason.
Kinder (11-1) has won eight straight games, its only loss this season a 18-15 loss to Westlake. The Yellow Jackets have won each of their postseason games in routs, besting Istrouma 41-0 and Homer 35-6.
It’s a team driven primarily by defense. If St. James is to put up the gaudy numbers it has over the past three weeks, it’ll be the first to do so against the Jackets, who have allowed as many as 20 points just once this season. It held seven opponents to single digits.
“They’ve got a playmaker at each level of their defense,” said Jenkins. “Some really good football players. It’s part of what has allowed them to dictate to teams how they want to defend them.”
Jenkins said that the Wildcats could pose something of a different look for Kinder to defend. The Yellow Jackets faced primarily run-first teams this season as part of District 4-2A, but SJH runs a true shotgun spread.
“They’re able to put eight in the box and stop the running game. Their defensive backs are good in coverage, so they can afford to do it,” he said.
“We’ll be one of the only spread teams they’ve faced. They’re very talented all over, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”