Coach Valdez exits West St. John for Scotlandville

Published 12:11 am Saturday, July 18, 2015

EDGARD — After seven years as head football coach of the West St. John Rams, Robert Valdez has stepped down to take the head coaching position at Scotlandville in Baton Rouge.

Valdez, 41, has strung together an impressive legacy in his seven seasons with the Rams, taking them to the playoffs each year and winning the district five times. Over the past four years. the Rams have won 45 games along the way to finishing as state 2A runner-up in 2011 and making it to the state semifinals playoffs in the past three seasons.

Valdez served as head coach at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge for one season before taking over as head coach and athletic director at West St. John High School in 2008.

“I was very conscious of what type of program I was walking into,” Valdez said. “My main goal was to maintain the status of a championship caliber program or elevate it, and I think that in seven years we were able to maintain West St. John’s identity as a high school football program.”

Throughout his time at West St. John, Valdez was successful in compiling a 59-28 record while seeing a number of his athletes off to college on football scholarships.

“We put almost 40 kids in colleges from a small school,” Valdez said. “We’re talking about anywhere from LSU to Texas A&M to all over the place to the last two MVP quarterbacks at Southern University were West St. John products.”

Valdez said he was approached by Scotlandville following the surprise exit of their former coach last week, who took a job as an assistant principal.

“We sat down and interviewed and discussed a couple of things,” Valdez said.

“I asked them if they could give me some time to sit down and think it over and talk it over with my family. I decided this was a good situation after mulling it over for a little bit.”

Moving on to Scotlandville will be a homecoming of sorts for Valdez, who received his bachelor’s degree from Southern University. However, it was the prospect of moving to a 5A program that was too tempting to pass up.

“I am going to 5A with 1,400 kids at the school,” Valdez said. “It is an opportunity to see if what I bring to the table transcends into success at that level.”

Valdez said while he does not expect Scotlandville will compete against any St. John teams in the 2015 season, it could happen in future.

“I don’t want to be in that situation, but if it happens there is an old saying — ‘I gotta do what I gotta do,’” Valdez said.

The replacement 

St. John the Baptist Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George said immediately following the announcement of Valdez’s resignation, he fielded calls from several coaches interested in applying for the job.

“We’ve told them all we are appointing an interim in-house and they are more than welcome to apply once the position is officially open,” George said.

George said it was too late for West St. John to find a permanent replacement before the 2015 season kicks off.

“Because of the timing of this, we cannot or do not want to do a full-fledged process right now,” George said. “We will save that for after the season. The principal will appoint an interim head coach/athletic director to take us from now until the end of the season. After the season is over, we will do a normal coaching search hiring process.”

By the end of next week, George said the Rams would have elevated one of their assistant coaches to serve as interim head coach for the season.

“(Principal Claude Hill) will conduct interviews next week just of those people in-house for the interim position to take over,” George said.

George said no matter what happens, West St. John will be able to handle it.

“Of course it is huge loss with Coach Valdez, but West St. John is a machine,” George said. “We are going to put an interim in there and a reload and keep on going.”

Looking back

Valdez said some of his favorite moments at West St. John included a come-from-behind victory against St. James High School in 2011.

“I will never forget being down to St. James 12-6 with under two minutes in a monsoon rainstorm and us stripping the ball at the one yard line as St. James was trying to seal the victory and running it back,” Valdez said. “We eventually won in overtime to beat St. James, which is our biggest rival. That will always be memorable.”

Another memorable game was the Rams semifinals win in 2011 that propelled them to the state championship.

“The best high school game I’ve been associated with in my life is when we played in the state semifinals versus Vermillion Catholic and won 54-41,” Valdez said. “It was a shootout. I remember looking at the clock and the score was 41-41 with 4:41 left.”

The Rams scored two touchdowns to take home the win.

Most of all, Valdez said, he will keep the people of West St. John in mind.

“The tremendous players I’ve coached and the great relationships I’ve built — that is something that will always be special to me,” he said.