Never let it be said that West St. John and St. James play boring football games.
Despite giving the St. James Wildcats opportunity after opportunity, West St. John managed, somehow, to take a 12-6 victory over its River Parishes rival, giving Rams’ first-year head coach Brandon Walters his first win and keeping the Railroad Classic trophy in Edgard for another year.
West St. John has now won the past six meetings between the teams. St. James last won the traditional River Parishes season-opener in 2007. The teams did not play in 2008 and 2012 because of hurricanes.
Walters will have a hard time trying to match his debut, which came before a standing-room-only crowd.
In the final seconds, St. James drove to the West St. John 12-yard line. But on what should have been the game’s final play, Wildcats quarterback Demarcus Williams’ pass attempt was intercepted by Kie’Ave Harry at the goal line. He elected to run around a bit — including into the end zone — before finally taking a dive at the St. James 30-yard line after time expired. But teams began to line up for the traditional postgame handshake, but a false start call on St. James gave West St. John one untimed down. The Rams elected to kneel on the ball, restarting the celebration.
“I don’t know how (I will match his debut),” Walters said after the wild finish. “I’m just so proud of these kids. They fought really hard. They never quit.”
St. James coach Dwain Jenkins was mystified at his team’s mistakes and miscues after its strong showing in last week’s jamboree.
“I think we have to learn how to handle the hype of a game like this,” Jenkins said.
West St. John scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, both on 5-yard passes from quarterback Jermoine Green to first-year receiver Reggie Ross. Neither point-after attempt was successful, leaving the Rams with a 14-0 halftime lead. But then the Rams had to fend off a wild second-half rally-attempt by the Wildcats — who got quite a bit of help from their hosts.
West St. John was penalized 16 times for 126 yards and turned the ball over twice. But the Rams did move the ball, at times, finishing with a respectable 227 yards of offense. Green was 13 of 26 for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
St. James showed its own growing pains. Williams, starting for the injured Lowell Narcisse, was 9-of-24 for 118 yards with one interception. The Wildcats running game managed only 48 yards.
In the third quarter, St. James put together perhaps its best drive of the game, going from its own 27-yard line to the West St. John 1. But on fourth-and-goal, Wildcats quarterback Demarcus Williams was sacked with 1:53 on the clock. The Rams took over, but were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving them the ball back at their own 1.
After a run for no gain and an offsides penalty, Green threw a screen to his left which was picked off by Jai Lewis at the 6. He ran it in for the score with 1:10 remaining.
The St. James defense got its final opportunity after West St. John muffed a punt with 3:50 remaining in the game and the Wildcats took over at midfield.