West St. John proved to be a nearly perfect host for Friday night’s River Parishes showdown against cross-river rival Riverside Academy. The jambalaya was spicy, the wings were hot and the Rams were generous.
West St. John turned the ball over five times, giving Riverside two interceptions and three fumbles, as well as a short field for most of the night, helping the Rebels take a 44-21 non-district victory in Edgard. It is the second win in a row for Riverside in the second consecutive regular season meeting between the longtime rivals. The last time West St. John beat Riverside was 2004.
And the Rebels (3-0) dominated this one, jumping to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter before West St. John (2-1) regrouped. The Rebels rolled up 450 yards of offense, 338 of that on the ground and most of that gained by a pair of underclassmen. Junior Brandon Sanders rushed for 152 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. Sophomore Hardell Mack had 17 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman starting quarterback Jordan Loving threw three touchdowns, completing 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards with no interceptions. Junior Herb McGee caught touchdown passes of 11 and 38 yards. Place-kicker Tyler Gauthier added four PATs and a 20-yard field goal. And senior Richie George had a big night, hauling in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Loving in the first quarter. In the third quarter, he recovered a West St. John fumble and returned it 10 yards for another score.
But George was one of three players ejected following a brief brawl early in the second half. Two Rams also were thrown out of the game.
“We did some really good things in the first half,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said. “In the second half, I was extremely disappointed in the way our team handled themselves. There’s things right now that I’m not real happy about, things we’re going to have to address. There’s a lack of concentration in parts, especially when we think we’ve got the football game in hand. We’re much more disciplined than that.”
“We knew the environment was going to be kind of hostile,” Sanders said. “Our coach told us to be humble, to play smart. We came out and did what we had to do to get the job done, then we came out and got in a big fight. We calmed down and talked about it, and after that we got back to our game.”
West St. John coach Robert Valdez lamented his team’s generosity throughout the night. Quarterback Jermoine Green threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away once. Kendall Martin nabbed his interception on the first play from scrimmage, returning the ball to the Rams’ 17-yard line. Two plays later, Loving threw to McGee from 11 yards out for the Rebels’ first score less than a minute into the game. Martin later recovered a fumble for Riverside.
Green ended up completing 15 of 21 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns — two to Morrell Bartholomew and another to Jabari Walkers.
“We had five or six turnovers, I think,” Valdez said. “You can’t win a game of pit-a-pat with six turnovers. We can’t make those mistakes against a good football team. They’re a very good football team. They’re stout. We thought we had some chances, thought we had some things we could take advantage of. But we just can’t make those types of mistakes.”