St. James enters 2023 after reaching the semifinals

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

VACHERIE — St. James comes into 2023 after reaching the Division III non select state semifinals last year. St. James was defeated by state champion Many, 32-13, and went 8-2 in the regular season.

St. James coach LaVanta Davis, who enters his fifth year with the school and second as the head coach, feels that this season’s club has balance in all phases.

Quarterback Brayden Williams returns under center. Last season, Williams threw for 2,367 yards on 160-of-263 (60.8 percent) with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran 62 times for 261 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

“He had an outstanding year,” Davis said. “He made first-team all-state. Kid is sound academically. He’s a student first. He wants to play the quarterback position and has taken more of a leadership role.”

Davis said that Williams is a dual-threat quarterback. Davis said that Williams has a strong arm and understands defensive coverage. Davis said Williams needed to work on his speed last year, so he ran track.

Kobe Brown is back at receiver.

In 2022, Brown caught 53 passes for 873 yards (16.5 yards per catch) with 11 touchdowns. Brown also ran for 33 yards on seven carries (4.7).

“Another student first (along with Williams),” Davis said. “Both post over a 3.5 GPA. Dual-sport athlete. He ran track as well. He can play any receiver spot. He perfects his craft with his route running and his ball skills. He’ll also do things on special teams. He’s a lead by example kind of kid.”

The rest of the receivers are by committee that includes Trenton Ester and Zaquan Acklin.

The offensive line has one returning starter in Deuce Williams, who is a tackle/center.

New to the lineup are Andre Mahler, Jarmaine Mitchell, Kaden Williams and Caylon Fletcher.

“We hope that they establish a form of physicality to create a new line of scrimmage,” Davis said.

The running backs are new as the team lost a 1,000-yard back.

They are Cameron Leblanc and Niran Jackson.

LeBlanc ran for 172 yards on 43 attempts (4) and a touchdown. Davis said they’re in evaluation mode.

“Both do well with running between the tackles and doing what we ask them to do,” Davis said. “There’s not much separation between those two guys. Just a matter of who takes advantage of the reps. We’ll evaluate the film to see who emerges as the starting running back.”

Defensively, St. James brings back two players on the line, including end Nicholas Chopin and tackle Tre Williams.

Chopin made 42 tackles, 14 for loss with three sacks, a caused fumble, two fumble recoveries, 12 quarterback hurries and he scored a touchdown.

Williams recorded 28 stops, five for a loss, a sack with two forced fumbles, a recovered fumble and two hurries.

“Nick has a high motor and high intensity at the defensive end position as well as Tre Williams at the nose,” Davis said. “Tre has a great get off. He uses his hands well and he’s explosive.”

The team brings back three linebackers that include sam linebacker De’Andre Videau, mike linebacker Adrian Prean and will linebacker Chaidyn Parker.

Videau made 55 stops, six for a loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.

Prean had 13 tackles and two hurries.

Parker tallied 29 stops, two for loss with a fumble recovery.

“They’re returning starters so they have experience,” Davis said. “They run to the ball well. They have good size and speed.”

St. James brings back two defensive backs with experience in Garry White and Jarrell Williams.

White had 18 stops, he intercepted a pass and broke up three.

Williams is coming off an injury.  Last year, Williams made 21 tackles with two interceptions, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

“Garry White is a track guy,” Davis said. “He’s got long arms and good speed. He’s a junior this year. Jarrell is coming back from injury this year. He fits that mold as well.”

St. James starts the regular season on Sept. 1 with a home game against East St. John.