Never let it be said West St. John and St. James play boring football games.
Despite giving St. James chance after chance, West St. John managed, somehow, to take a 12-6 victory over its River Parishes rival, giving Rams’ first-year coach Brandon Walters his first win and keeping the Railroad Classic trophy in Edgard for another year.
West St. John has won the past six meetings. St. James last won the traditional River Parishes season-opener in 2007. The teams did not play in 2008 and 2012 because of hurricanes.
Walters will have a hard time trying to match his debut, which came before a standing-room only crowd.
In the final seconds, St. James drove to the WSJ 12-yard line. But on what appeared to be the game’s final play, Wildcats quarterback Demarcus Williams’ pass attempt was intercepted by Kie’Ave Harry at the goal line. He elected to run around a bit — including into the end zone — before finally taking a dive at the St. James 30-yard line after time expired.
However, as the teams lined up for the postgame handshake, a false start call on St. James gave West St. John one untimed down. The Rams elected to kneel on the ball, restarting the celebration.
“I don’t know how (I will match his debut),” Walters said. “I’m just so proud of these kids. They fought really hard. They never quit.”
St. James coach Dwain Jenkins was mystified at his team’s mistakes after a strong showing in the previous week’s jamboree.
“I think we have to learn how to handle the hype of a game like this,” Jenkins said.
West St. John scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, both on 5-yard passes from Jermoine Green to Reggie Ross. Neither PAT attempt was successful, leaving the Rams with a 12-0 halftime lead. But then the Rams had to fend off a wild second-half rally by the Wildcats.
West St. John was penalized 16 times for 126 yards and turned the ball over twice. But the Rams did move the ball, at times, finishing with 227 yards of offense. Green was 13 of 26 for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Williams, starting for the injured Lowell Narcisse, was 9-of-24 for 118 yards with one interception. St. James’ running game managed only 48 yards.
In the third quarter, St. James put together its best drive of the game, going from its own 27-yard line to the West St. John 1. But on fourth-and-goal, Wildcats quarterback Demarcus Williams was sacked with 1:53 on the clock. The Rams took over, but were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving them the ball back at their own 1.
After a run for no gain and an offsides penalty, Green threw a screen to his left which was picked off by Jai Lewis at the 6. He ran it in for the score with 1:10 left in the third. St. James got its final chance after WSJ muffed a punt with 3:50 remaining, and the Wildcats took over at midfield.