ST. FRANCISVILLE — A big part of West Feliciana Coach Robb Odom’s job this season has been convincing his team that no matter how they start a game, it’s how they finish that will most often determine whether or not they will be successful.

Friday night against District 7-3A rival Baker, Odom’s strategy proved prophetic as the Saints turned the football over on their first three possessions, but thanks to a strong defense, they hung on until the offense finally got going en route to a 20-6 victory over the Buffaloes.

“Our defense really held them when we had to in the first half (after) we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Odom said. “When we play clean, we’re a pretty good football team.”

The Saints proved that point after spotting coach Richard Oliver’s visiting Buffaloes a 6-0 lead late in the second quarter. But the Saints rallied with a 78-yard kickoff return before halftime and added two second-half scores to pull away from Baker and improve to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in district. Baker fell to 3-4 overall and 0-3 in district.

“The kickoff return gave us back the momentum, the ol’ mo before halftime, and we came out in the second half and played like we’re capable of playing,” Odom said.

Senior quarterback Ryan Reed was the offensive workhorse, rushing for 157 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown while running back R.C. Carmenia rushed for 43 yards on five carries and another score as the Saints piled up 304 yards on the ground.

Baker, led by quarterback Treylan Anderson and running back Preston Bell, kept the Buffaloes moving, but they only managed one score on Bell’s 4-yard run with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.

With Baker choosing to squib the ensuing kickoff, senior return specialist Lorenzo Green scooped up the ball at the 28-yard line, ran up the middle then toward the right pylon untouched for a 72-yard TD with 2 seconds left. The point-after gave the Saints a 7-6 halftime lead.

Receiving the second-half kickoff, the Saints marched 52 yards on nine plays with Carmenia scoring on an 18-yard bolt up the middle. The PAT put the Saints ahead 14-6.

After a Baker punt, Reed capped the scoring with a 59-yard jaunt down the right sideline, but the point after was missed, making the score 20-6 with 11:48 in the game.

“We had to hang on to the ball and clean up our turnovers,” Reed said.

The Saints stumbled with three turnovers in the first quarter that stymied any offensive momentum on their first three possessions. Reed fumbled on the Saints’ opening drive that was recovered by Baker’s Marcus Rowley at the Buffaloes 35. After Baker went three and out and punted, the Saints took over at their 2,2 and on third and 17, Reed was intercepted by Rowley at the Baker 47-yard line. Baker linebacker Delonta Miller also stopped a drive with a fumble recovery.

West Feliciana is at Brusly next week followed by a homecoming showdown against top-ranked University High. Meanwhile, Baker plays Glen Oaks next week.

“We have some big games coming up so we have to clean up our mistakes and have crisp practices so we can do better to start games,” Odom said.