Rams back to quarters, to visit surging Block

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013


LAPLACE – “Will they be playing on Thanksgiving week?” is a benchmark many use to measure the strength of a particular football program from year to year. That distinction means a team has officially embarked on a postseason run.
In that respect—and many others — the West St. John Rams can consider themselves in healthy condition. The Rams are set to play a game after Turkey Day for the third season in a row, as WSJ will travel to Block for a Class 1A quarterfinal game this Friday night.
West St. John advanced to the state semifinals last season and the state championship game in 2011. A victory Friday would clinch a third straight finish in the classification’s final four.
In some ways, success breeds more success.
“When you look at it as coaches, it’s a chance to extend your season. That’s up to five extra weeks of work and practice that’s as beneficial to your young guys as anything else,” said West St. John coach Robert Valdez. “And by this point, if you continue to advance year in and year out, the Austin Howards and Jeremy Jacksons of the world have played a whole lot of football.”
That senior duo certainly looked like they’d seen and done a lot in last week’s 68-20 regional round win over visiting Elton. Howard tossed four touchdown passes to go along with 185 passing yards.
Jackson gained 204 yards on the ground while scoring three times, including one highlight reel 48-yard touchdown run.
“He made one run that … I’ve been around football a long time, and that was something I hadn’t seen,” said Valdez.
The Rams were coming off of a first round bye, and Valdez admitted to some early rust. But after a pair of first quarter turnovers, it was smooth sailing. WSJ rushed for 366 yards on the night.
The passing game was in high gear as well, with Keith Miller and Morrell Bartholomew each catching two touchdowns.
The third-seeded Rams (9-2) will be facing a team that’s on a roll this Friday. Block (7-5) went 0-5 in predistrict play but has rattled off seven consecutive wins since then, all coming by double figures. Four teams in that stretch have eight wins or more this season, including last week’s 37-26 win upset win over No. 6 Pointe Coupee Central.
The No. 11 seeded Bears run the Wing-T option, relying on backs Raymond Plummer, Cameron Everett and Austin Danzy to carry the mail. Plummer carried 26 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, whole Everett had 21 carries for 156 yards and two scores. Danzy carried it 11 times for 65 yards and what turned out to be the game-sealing score with 2:43 left to play.
Block led 29-12 in that game and saw Point Coupee rally to within three before Danzy’s touchdown run.
“They definitely pass the eyeball test,” said Valdez. “They’ve got a team of good-looking kids. Their confidence is soaring right now. The film we have on them from predistrict, they look like they were a bit out of sync. That’s not the case right now.”
The Rams have faced the “Wing-T” numerous times in District 8-1A play. The Bears’ version, Valdez noted, is a bit different. The offensive lineman line up foot-to-foot, with no gaps in between.
“Their backs just look for creases,” said Valdez. “You don’t see too many teams do that. We have to guard against being overly aggressive. Our perimeter guys especially need to be disciplined.”
That run as the first, second and third option-style lends to another strategy West St. John has seen plenty of this season: an attempt to keep the Rams’ scorching offense on the sideline for extended periods of time. St. John-Plaquemine was able to for a short while via the Wing-T — the Rams ran just four plays in the first quarter of that game – before WSJ exploded to score 56 points over the final three quarters.
“As an offense, when they’re able to play keep away, you have to keep your composure,” he said.
“Make every possession matter.”
Block quarterback Trevon Baulk is the “catalyst” of the option, Valdez said.
Defensively, Block runs a pressure scheme out of the 4-3. Before last week’s win over Pointe Coupee, Block had allowed 35 total points in its previous five games.
“They like to play man to man and mix in some cover 3,” said Valdez. “They’ve got some big linebackers and they like to match up on the outside. You seldom see them get beat deep. You probably have to catch them through the play-action game. They present a challenge.”