To some teams, the annual jamboree game is nothing more than a dress rehearsal, a final tuneup before the regular season. But anytime East St. John and West St. John meet, it’s serious.
“It’s West St. John,” East St. John coach Phil Banko said. “This is our Super Bowl.”
Thursday night’s Marathon River Parishes Jamboree was no exception. But there is a reason the two teams are at opposite ends of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s classifications. The Class 5A East St. John Wildcats outnumbered, outmanned and simply outplayed the Class 1A Rams on the way to a 24-6 victory.
And East St. John quarterback Xavier Lewis did most of the outplaying. The senior LSU commitment ran for all three of East St. John’s touchdowns, including an 80-yard sprint on the opening play of the second half. The 6-foot, 185-pound standout finished with four carries for 91 yards but completed only two passes for 57 yards with two interceptions. He also had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown that was wiped out by a penalty.
“He’s pretty special,” East St. John coach Phillip Banko said.
Overall, Banko was pleased with his team’s effort in its final tuneup before facing defending Division I state champion Rummel next week. Place-kicker Hector Barrera was 3-for-3 on PATs and kicked a 35-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
“It’s a game-scrimmage situation,” he said. “We’re trying to get ready for next week. We’ve got Rummel; they’ve got St. James. No one got seriously hurt to my knowledge, so that’s what it’s all about.”
Banko didn’t even seem too perturbed about his team’s 121 yards in penalties, some of which proved quite costly. But he did agree that his players can’t make mistakes like that next week.
“Yes, that’s got to change,” he said. “We’ve got to work on that.”
On the other side, West St. John coach Robert Valdez was pleased that his team fought to the end.
The Rams moved the ball at times. Led by quarterback Jemoine Green, West St. John finished with more than 100 yards and turned the ball over just once. Jamal Walters and Kie-Ave Harry nabbed interceptions for the defense.
“We fought,” Valdez said. “We had some injuries coming in, we had some come out and we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to be young. We’re going to keep fighting. I’m proud of the way we fought. Xavier Lewis is Xavier Lewis. He’s going to make the plays. It’s up to us to learn from this and get better.”