Amite out; St. James seems ticketed for football state finals

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The St. James Wildcats started their season with a tough break, but they seem to have gotten a fortunate one at the end.

Dwain Jenkins

Dwain Jenkins

Just days before the No. 15 seeded Wildcats were scheduled to play in the Class 3A semifinals against No. 11 seed Amite, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association removed the Warriors from the playoffs, automatically sending St. James to the finals. The Wildcats (10-3) would play the winner between No. 13 West Feliciana and No. 1 Lutcher Mercedes-Benz Superdome at noon on Dec. 12 for the state championship. It will be St. James’ first trip to the finals since 2007.

Amite (8-5), last year’s Class 3A state runner-up, was ruled ineligible because of a bench-clearing brawl at the end of its quarterfinal victory against Bogalusa Friday. According to reports, the Amite football team left the sideline and the officials were forced to suspend play with less than two minutes remaining. At a hearing held Tuesday, the LHSAA ruled Amite ineligible. Amite appealed the ruling Wednesday morning but was denied. Amite has filed a lawsuit to overturn the ruling, however.

“I’m excited, I’m confused, I don’t know,” said St. James coach Dwain Jenkins. “It’s a weird situation. I know there is a process that still has to happen, and things could still change. There’s no book for this.”

Jenkins said he learned of the ruling Tuesday evening, just as he was finishing up a late practice with his team. He was able to explain the situation to his players, with the caveat that the situation still could change. Until he knows for certain, Jenkins said, he will continue to prepare for Friday’s scheduled game against Amite.

“I think I’d be doing my team a disservice if we don’t continue to plan and prepare for Amite,” Jenkins said.

The Wildcats went into the season without its best player, junior quarterback Lowell Narcisse, who has already committed to Auburn. The 6-foot-2 standout tore his ACL during the team’s spring scrimmage and missed all of the regular season. He returned for the first playoff game against Green Oaks, passing for one touchdown and running for two more plus a pair of two-point conversions.

Now it seems the Wildcats have gotten another break.

“I’ll be excited,” Jenkins said. “It has been a roller coaster year. We survived the season. This team has been nothing but resilient.”

— By Lori Lyons