West St. John senior linebacker Covan Barnes says he hasn’t stopped smiling all week.
He’s had a lot to be happy about.
For the first time since he was just a freshman, the Rams are back in the semifinals and one win away from a trip to Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the final.
West St. John had been knocked out of the Class 2A quarterfinals the past two seasons. Now back in Class 1A, the No. 1 seeded Rams got back over that hump with a solid 26-6 victory over No. 8 Jonesboro-Hodge last week and get to host No. 5 seed Logansport on Friday night.
Barnes wants to make up for lost time — in more ways than one.
“The last time we were in the semifinals, I left the game early in the first quarter with an ankle injury,” he said. “Now I get another chance.”
Barnes is certainly making the most of his chances this season. The 6-foot, 215-pound defensive team captain was a key factor in last week’s win, forcing three fumbles (one ruled down by contact) and recovering two. He also was in on “a bunch” of the team's eight sacks.
“He’s one of those bosses on the defense,” coach Brandon Walters said. “They all look to him to hold it down. He definitely lived up to it last week. He’s been playing really good for us.”
Said Barnes: “We played big. Everything was how we practiced it last week. I’ve gotten better as a leader. I was more of an example leader, but now I’m starting to be more of a vocal leader. I’ve grown into it.”
The Rams face a tough task this week. Logansport may be a lower seed, but the Tigers are the defending Class 1A state champions and come to Edgard undefeated and riding a 27-game winning streak.
They like to throw the ball. Quarterback Dalton Shaw, who earlier this season broke his own coach’s school record for touchdown passes, has a solid target in TCU commitment John Stephens Jr.
Walters said he will need another big game from his defense.
“This time of year you have to be able to run the ball well, control the line of scrimmage and play good defense,” he said. “We just keep chopping at the tree. We didn’t do anything different (last week). Our guys up front, you can’t block them one on one. You’re going to need help with one of them and that creates a lot of opportunities for us. That’s what we stand with.
"We’re not going to turn around now and try something different. We come out and play to win. This is one of those weeks I don’t have to do a lot of encouraging. I don’t have to motivate them. They know what’s at stake.”