St. James Parish football takes stage: Bulldogs, Wildcats play Saturday for title

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, December 9, 2015

LUTCHER — By the end of Saturday, a football state championship trophy and a runner-up trophy will rest in St. James Parish. The only thing to be determined is which side of the Mississippi River will call which home.

St. James Parish’s two high schools, Lutcher and St. James, will play at noon Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Class 3A state title.  While it certainly is not the first time the two schools have met — it’s actually the 37th — it is the first time the two will vie against each other for a state championship and the ultimate bragging rights.

It also is the second meeting of the season. The two had not played for 10 years due to reclassification, now they get a double dip.

Lutcher is the No. 1 seed in the bracket with a record of 13-1. St. James is the upstart, the No. 15 seed with a record of 11-3 — including the 32-0 loss to Lutcher in the regular season.

Suffice it to say, the residents of St. James Parish are in a frenzy. St. James has won four state titles, the last in 1979. Lutcher has won six, the last in 2008.

“It certainly adds to the game,” said LHS head coach Tim Detillier, who has been a part of six of Lutcher’s seven state titles, either as a team manager, assistant coach or head coach. “There are no losers in this. It’s certainly going to be special.”

Also making it special is the fact Detillier’s opponent is coached by his former assistant coach, Dwain Jenkins. He took over the Wildcats three years ago, leading the team from back-to-back winless seasons under his predecessor to a 6-7 record and the third round of the playoffs in his first season, to a 8-5 record and the third round of the playoffs last season and to the finals this season.

The Wildcats sat out last week’s semifinal round after their opponent, Amite, was ruled ineligible by the LHSAA following a brawl in the final minutes of the Warriors’ quarterfinal victory over Bogalusa. A Baton Rouge judge refused to overturn the ruling on Friday, forcing Amite to forfeit.

“Dwain (Jenkins) is special,” Detillier said. “He’s like a son to me. There was no doubt he was going to be successful. I knew when he’d go for a state championship I would be in the arena. I just never dreamed I’d be there playing too.”

Pleasantries aside, there is still a very important game to be played between two pretty good football teams. Lutcher has been a contender all season, knocking off three Class 5A opponents to start the season (including a 26-21 jamboree win over Destrehan), and letting St. Amant get away 21-20 in Week Three. Leading the Bulldogs attack has been quarterback Jontrae Kirkland, who has passed for more than 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. He has rushed for more than a dozen TDs.

“If he’s not the Class 3A MVP, something’s wrong,” Jenkins said of Kirkland.

It’s the Bulldogs’ defense that came through last week, however, stopping West Feliciana inside the 10-yard line on a crucial 2-point conversion in overtime to propel Lutcher to the finals.

Asked who made the play, Detillier simply said, “The front line.” Of course, junior defensive lineman Sully Laiche was leading the charge.

“When we really had to have it, they did it,” Detillier said. “There was no doubt what they were doing. There was no doubt who they were giving it to. And we stopped them. We’ve been doing things like that all year.”

Jenkins said his team must do everything it can to prevent a repeat of its earlier loss to the Bulldogs. Thanks to a slew of miscues, St. James fell behind 16-0 in the first two and a half minutes of the first game and never recovered. Of course, the Wildcats also differ already in that they have star quarterback Lowell Narcisse back on the field. The junior, who has committed to play for Auburn, missed the entire regular season with a torn ACL. He returned in time for the bi-district playoff victory against Green Oaks.

Saturday’s game will be his 30th start at quarterback. He has passed for 98 touchdowns and rushed for 34 more.

“He’s definitely a different dynamic,” Detillier said. “He just makes them better. He makes his teammates better. I’m glad he got to come back. Most kids would have just waited until next year.”