Lowell Narcisse and Jontre Kirklin were once basketball teammates, peewee football foes and even fought for a state title as middle-schoolers.

Their lifelong rivalry reaches another level at noon Saturday when St. James and Lutcher meet for the Class 3A championship. Each now the starting quarterback for his school, this is a battle years in the making.

“It’s like old times,” said Kirklin, the Lutcher signal-caller.

“I’ve been playing against him forever,” Narcisse said. “He knows so much about me, and I know so much about him.”

It’ll also be a St. James Parish civil war: the Wildcats from the west bank of the Mississippi River fighting the Bulldogs from the other side.

That proximity breeds familiarity, and relationships like the one shared by Narcisse and Kirklin make it even more captivating.

“It’s a family game,” Kirklin said. “And it’s about bragging rights now.”

St. James coach Dwain Jenkins knows both of these quarterbacks well. He’s spent the past three years restoring the Wildcats’ program and developing Narcisse into one of the state’s top college prospects.

But before that, he was an assistant at Lutcher. He identified Kirklin in the eighth grade as a future Bulldogs starting quarterback, and he’s now been proven right.

Both protégés will take the field Saturday, but only one will exit a champion.

“It’s a weird dynamic for me,” Jenkins said.

All history aside, Jenkins wants Narcisse to come out victorious.

Narcisse, an Auburn commitment, tore his ACL during his spring game in May. He underwent surgery June 11 with a surgeon who had operated on LSU players.

That encouraged Narcisse, but he still had moments where he questioned whether he’d ever make it back.

“But as time goes by,” Narcisse said, “your body feels better.”

It took him only three months to get back on the practice field, albeit on a very limited basis. By mid-October, he said, he was back to full strength, and the only thing he couldn’t do was take contact.

That’s when the once inconceivable idea of him returning this season became real.

His doctor cleared him to play the first week of the playoffs, and the coaches gave him their blessing. Narcisse just had to get his mother to sign off. She eventually did.

Narcisse put the pads back on for St. James’ playoff opener against Green Oaks.

“I don’t think anyone was breathing in the entire stadium when he came on the field,” Jenkins said.

His first play was a designed run that lost 4 yards, but Narcisse hasn’t lost much since. He’s led the Wildcats to three straight victories, a fourth coming from Amite’s forfeited semifinal. He’s thrown for 296 yards and run for 305 in the postseason, accounting for 10 touchdowns.

“This whole year, we got caught up trying to replace him,” Jenkins said. “The team believes in him, and that’s meant the difference.”

Narcisse steals the headlines, but Kirklin has quietly had one of the state’s best seasons. He threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for 17 more, racking up 3,338 yards of offense in the process.

“If I was voting for all-state,” Jenkins said, “he’d be the offensive MVP in 3A, no doubt about it.”

College coaches will descend on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to see Narcisse and other college prospects. Lutcher coach Tim Detillier hopes they also notice Kirklin.

“That’s human nature,” Detillier said. “We haven’t talked about it, but I’m sure that’s a goal. I haven’t coached an athlete that wouldn’t be motivated in that situation.”

The chance for a title is all the motivation Kirklin needs though. Especially when that involves sharing a stage with Narcisse.

“Me and Lowell go way back,” Kirklin said. “I’m just glad to be able to play against this guy again.”