West St. John shines again at Signing Day

Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 7, 2014


LAPLACE — Chalk up another impressive signing day class for West St. John.

A year after placing eight players at the collegiate level, seven Rams inked their signatures upon their letters of intent, one season after West St. John saw eight signees.

Austin Howard, Kylon Adams and Keith Miller each signed with Southern. Jeremy Jackson and Laffarin Stipe each signed with Arkansas Baptist.  Brandon Matthews is on to Eastern Illinois, while Koi Rainey is headed to Nicholls State. An eighth Ram, 2012 graduate Darzil Washington, signed with Louisiana-Lafayette after two years of junior college. The Ram players signed at a special ceremony Wednesday morning at the West St. John gymnasium. 

The high volume of Ram signees in recent seasons reflects a West St. John team that’s placed in two semifinals and one state final over the past three seasons while banking district championships in all three as well.

“These kids have played some really good football over the past few years,” said West St. John coach Robert Valdez. “You look at their body of work over, really,  almost 60 weeks of play, then the summers they’ve put in, then what they’ve done in 7-on-7 … there’s a lot to be proud of. They’ve got a lot of accomplishments.’

“These kids really left their mark here.”

The Howard, Adams and Miller trifecta nets Southern seven Ram players over the past two seasons. 

Howard, who guided West St. John at quarterback over all three deep playoff runs,  wore a broad smile for most of the proceedings Wednesday.

“I put all my trust in God, and He does the rest,” said Howard. “I feel like all of my hard work, all of those days grinding out there with my team, it shows me that it paid off in the end.”

Howard, who tossed 27 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions last season, said that the chance to play his games close to home appealed to him.

“It’s close enough so that my mom and my dad can make it out to watch me play,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about them not being able to make a game.’

“I felt at ease with everything. The coaches there would call me just to see how I was doing. They showed a lot of love.’

“The best part is seeing my momma with a smile on her face, because she doesn’t have to take care of anything out of pocket,” said Howard. “It’s a blessing.”

Jackson was L’Observateur’s St. John Parish Offensive MVP last season after rushing for 1,797 yards and scoring 38 total touchdowns. 

He said that he hopes to move on to Arkansas or Central Florida after two seasons at Arkansas Baptist, a junior college.

“I’m just ready to ball,” said Jackson with a grin. “Nothing else but ball. I can’t wait to get on the field.”

Matthews finished last season with nine sacks as the Rams’ top pass rusher. 

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he said. “I can’t stop thinking about how blessed I am.”

He was originally set to sign with Grambling, recruited by Grambling assistant coach Dennis Winston. 

But when Winston and the rest of the Grambling staff was let go, Matthews decided to join Winston at his new post at Eastern Illinois. 

“He took me under his wing,” said Matthews. “He told me he’d take care of me.”

The temperature shift he’ll have to adjust to by going up north doesn’t phase him.

“It wasn’t that cold,” he laughed. “I can deal with that.”

Destrehan and Hahnville sent a combined 16 athletes to the next level Wednesday.

Destrehan’s Rae Juan Marbley signed with Tulane, Donovan Isom with Utah and Malcolm Darensbourg with Arkansas-Montecello. Three athletes in other sports signed as well, as pitcher Kade Granier (Southeastern), soccer player Jacob Johnson (East Central) and volleyball player Jennifer McClendon (Louisiana-Monroe) all inked.

Hahnville, meanwhile, sends 10 athletes to the college ranks. Craig Ford (Louisiana-Monroe), Shawn Benson (Copiah Lincoln Junior College), Larry Boyd (Grambling), Hunter Perrin (Northwestern State), Jamal Smith (Grambling), Ricky Davis (Contra Costa Community College) and Lynn Simmons (Contra Costa Community College) represent the football program, while soccer player Kim Porche (Southeastern), and track and cross country standouts Beau Robinson and Bryce Robinson (Louisiana-Lafayette) round out the class.