Railroad Classic sees St. James rally fall short

Published 11:30 pm Friday, September 5, 2014


VACHERIE — St. James coach Dwain Jenkins told his players before Thursday night’s season opener they’d never forget that night, as the Wildcats hosted rival West St. John in the first game ever played in St. James’ new west bank stadium.

He wasn’t kidding.

Though St. James did not come away with a victory, the Wildcats showed plenty of heart in a 39-30 loss to the Rams. The two teams took the fans on an unforgettable roller coaster ride in the process.

“We made enough plays down the stretch to steal it,” West St. John coach Robert Valdez said. “I can’t say enough about my kids.”

West St. John built a 29-0 halftime lead before the Wildcats roared back to score 30 consecutive points — all by the end of the third quarter — to take a one-point lead into the final frame. 

But the Rams fought back to reclaim the lead on an Anfernee Lumar 28-yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights. Bradley Borne’s 8-yard touchdown run — set up by a blocked punt by Jimmy Connor — put WSJ ahead 39-30 with 3:35 remaining. 

St. James marched into West St. John territory to attempt to cap the night with even more drama, but WSJ’s Jamal Walters intercepted a Lowell Narcisse pass off of a deflection to all but seal the deal — and another Walters pick on St. James’ final possession of the night did so officially. 

“We know Lowell’s a great athlete with a very bright future, but he’s still young,” Valdez said. “He’s still a 10th grader. We wanted to make sure someone else had to beat us. We didn’t want to let him do it.”

St. James coach Dwain Jenkins said he was “drained” after not only a topsy-turvy game, but also a week of rivalry and new stadium hype. 

“It takes so much to rally back after you get down like we did,” Jenkins said. “They didn’t give us a lot of help. It wasn’t like West St. John came out and gave it away with turnovers. We needed to be perfect.”

While St. James will have to wait to garner its first home win in its new building, its third quarter performance offered much promise as to what could be going forward.

Trailing 29-0, St. James scored on its opening possession of the second half when Narcisse connected with Houston Wiggins for a 63-yard score. Narcisse kept and ran in a two-point conversion to make it 29-8. He’d use his legs again to convert St. James’ next score, a 34-yard touchdown followed by a two-point conversion pass to Dontaze Costly. 

Narcisse and Costly connected again on a 36-yard scoring pass to saw the lead down to 29-22 with 1:22 left. Momentum completely on the Wildcats side, the Rams fumbled the ensuing kickoff and St. James scored on the very next play, Narcisse hitting Curtlan Johnson before running in another two-pointer to give SJH it’s first lead of the night, 30-29.

The St. James defense held West St. John to a three-and-out to begin the fourth quarter and took advantage of a short punt to begin on the Rams’ 23. 

But West St. John’s defense stiffened and held St. James scoreless, forcing a turnover on downs. 

Both coaches called that stop a major turning point. 

“At that point, they could have gone up two scores and really put us in a tough situation,” Valdez said. 

“That and the blocked punt were critical sequences.”

The Rams took their first lead in the opening quarter on Lumar’s 35-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

“Kicking field goals at West St. John,” Valdez laughed. “Who’d have thought? 

“I don’t know … we’ve been practicing it and we got to execute it in a game tonight. We had confidence (Lumar) would make it.”

Then Morell Bartholomew took center stage, lighting up the scoreboard for three touchdowns. The first came on 5-yard fade touchdown, the Rams’ converting a two-pointer to make it 11-0.                        

With 6:28 left in the first half, that lead grew to 17-0 when Jemoine Green hit Bartholomew for a 10-yard score, one set up by a 51-yard Lamore Boudoin run.

“There are no words to explain that first half for us,” Jenkins said. “It’s not how we’ve practiced or scrimmaged. I don’t know if all the hype got to us … I said we’d never forget this night, but after that first half I don’t think anyone would have wanted to remember.”

Green and Baudoin connected for the next touchdown, a 6-yarder, before Bartholomew capped the scoring on a 45-yard scoring pass from Juwan Boudoin. 

“I told coach (Valdez) their corners were peaking into the backfield, looking for the run,” said Bartholomew. “I said, ‘Give me a play and I’ll make it.’”

The senior said he and his fellow veteran players wouldn’t let the Rams wilt in the second half.

“The senior class got everyone together and told them to keep fighting and we’ll pull it out,” he said. “We got too comfortable up 29-0. 

“They had that big ‘mo(mentum) on their side. We had to get it back.”