The River Parishes native that he is, Woodlawn High School coach Daniel Luquet knew his football team would be in for a tough battle Friday night against traditional powerhouse West St. John.
So, with his offense mired in mediocrity early, Luquet, a former Destrehan Wildcat, went back to his roots. Luquet moved senior star wide receiver Taj Sullivan from his usual spotlight to the Wildcat position in the backfield. Taking direct snaps from the center, Sullivan scored all four of Woodlawn’s touchdowns on the way to a 28-21 nondistrict win in Baton Rouge.
Sullivan scored on runs of 34, 6 and 31 yards. He also had a 59-yard touchdown reception from Jamari Nelson, finishing with a pair of catches for 70 yards. But he did most of his damage to West St. John on the run, rushing for 127 yards on 16 carries.
Sullivan said the move suited him just fine.
“Oh yes,” he said. “I liked that move. We came out in the first half and they kind of punched us in the mouth a little bit. Coach had to yell at us a little bit. We weren’t executing. Coach told us to pick it up.”
That the Panthers did, improving from a halftime yield of just 78 yards — including zero yards passing and no rushing yards from Sullivan — to a total of 255 yards rushing and 79 yards passing. Running back Javin Meyers struggled to gain 61 yards in the first half and finished with 109 on 26 carries.
“Right now our best player is No. 11 (Sullivan),” Luquet said. “And we’ve got to get him the ball.”
West St. John, meanwhile, showed its speed and skill, but also some rough spots. Quarterback Jermoine Green was 12 of 24 for 185 yards and one touchdown, but he was intercepted three times. The last, by Jonathan Scott with 1:21 remaining in the game, sealed the Rams’ fate.
But West St. John fought to the end. As both team struggled to find their rhythm in the first quarter, it was the Rams who took the first lead with 3:06 remaining in the first quarter when Green connected with Daquan Frank for a 12-yard touchdown.
Woodlawn would not answer until 1:38 remained in the half as Sullivan took a direct snap and ran 34 yards for his first touchdown. The teams went into halftime tied at 7.
With adjustments made, Woodlawn struck early in the second half. On the third play of its first possession, Nelson found Sullivan all alone on the right side of the field for a 59-yard touchdown.
West St. John responded with a seven play, 80-yard drive capped by Green’s 29-yard pass to Jabari Walters to tie the game at 14 with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Woodlawn scored early in the fourth quarter when Sullivan took a direct snap from his own 6 for the score, but West St. John answered with another 80-yard drive. Austin Alexander fought his way into the end zone from the 15 to tie the game at 21 with 9:12 remaining.
But then Sullivan led the Panthers on a 65-yard drive, capped by his own 31-yard touchdown run with 7:01 remaining.
West St. John had two more opportunities, one ended in a punt and the other in Scott’s interception.