ABBEVILLE — The West St. John Rams are heading back to the Class 1A semifinals for the second straight year after handling No. 3 seed Vermilion Catholic 41-20 on Friday.

The Rams (9-3), seeded No. 6, will travel to take on the Haynesville, which defeated Westminster Christian.

The Rams jumped on the Eagles quickly. On their opening series, the Rams went 65 yards in nine plays for a touchdown.

Kylum Favorite punched it in from the 1-yard line, and Anfernee Lamar nailed the extra point for a 7-0 lead just three-and-a-half minutes into the game.

The Rams added another score on their third possession of the game for a 13-0 lead with still two minutes left in the first quarter.

“We stressed being on the road to come out and start fast,” West St. John coach Robert Valdez said. “In an environment like this, you want to come out and set the tone. That’s what we did early.”

The Eagles (11-2) tried to make a game out of it when Dustin Desormeaux ran the kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. Duke Steen nailed the extra point, and VC seemed to be back in the game 13-7 with 39 seconds left to play in the first period.

But behind the arm and legs of West St. John junior quarterback Austin Howard, the Rams came right back with a score of their own on their next possession.

Howard, who was an impressive 10 of 14 passing for 147 yards in the first half, orchestrated a 68 yard, 12-play scoring drive. He threw two passes and ran three times, including a 2-yard TD run.

He completed 15 of 21 passes for 232 yards.

“Howard is our Cadillac,” Valdez said. “He makes us go and puts us in good situations. Tonight he made some fantastic plays.”

Howard was thrilled with the victory. Last year, the Rams beat Vermilion Catholic 54-41 in the semifinal game.

“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” Howard said. “Our coach said we have to come out and go right at them. We have to set the tone early. Jump on them early.”

The game was just about over at halftime with the Rams leading 27-7.

While the Rams offense accumulated 258 yards of total offense in the first half, the Rams defense was also doing its part.

West St. John’s defense allowed only 79 yards of total offense in the first half. VC quarterback Brennan Gallet had minus-4 yards rushing and 52 yards passing in the first half.

West St. John put the game away on its opening possession of the third period and scored in seven plays. The big play on the drive was Howard connecting with Morell Bartholomew for a 40-yard reception.

It was his first and last catch of the game.

Three plays later, Howard scooted seven yards up the middle for a touchdown, giving the Rams a comfortable 34-7 lead.

The Rams scored on its next possession on a four-yard TD run by Jeremy Jackson, making it 41-7. Jackson finished the game with 19 carries for 88 yards.

About the only bad thing the Rams did was commit penalties. They had 10 for 121 yards.