ST. JAMES — One controversial call can change the entire direction of a team’s season and have significant impacts on programs.
It’s the belief of St. James coach Robert Valdez, and on Friday, he witnessed a missed call change the entirety of the game in the Wildcats’ 13-7 overtime loss to St. Charles (7-3, 5-0 District 10-3A). St. Charles wrapped up the district title with the victory.
St. James (6-4, 3-2) led 7-0 and needed one more stop on fourth-and-goal from the 5 to clinch a victory over St. Charles. Quarterback Justin Dumas’ pass fell incomplete, and St. James was going to take over on downs with 2:15 left in the quarter. It was the second straight possession St. James stopped the Comets offense inside the 10 on fourth down, and with only one timeout remaining, the outcome looked bleak for St. Charles.
However, things took a turn when the officials called St. James for a pass interference call even though Valdez said the ball was tipped at the line, keeping St. Charles’ drive and hopes alive. On the next play, Dumas completed a 3-yard pass to running back Joseph Chiarella, and Cameron Fabre’s extra point made it 7-all.
“This is a championship game, two good programs, you shouldn’t make that kind of mistake where everybody in the stadium saw the ball was tipped, and you call a bogus pass interference,” Valdez said. “My kids played their butts off. My kids left it on the field. They came out and they played. We matched their intensity. We even brought it to another level, and just for it to end like that — it’s not right, it’s not right.
“Sometimes careers, programs, get railroaded by these types of blunders. There’s too much at stake for them to make a mistake like that.”
The game didn’t end there, however. St. James took the ball with 2:05 left, and quarterback Shamar Smith orchestrated a seven-play, 73-yard drive to move the ball to the 11-yard line for a game-winning kick. The attempt was blocked by St. Charles and the game headed to overtime.
The Wildcats had the ball first but failed to crack the end zone on their first three plays. On fourth down from the 1, Smith’s pass was deflected at the line and intercepted by St. Charles defensive lineman Jordan Brown.
Then Dumas broke the hearts of the St. James faithful once again with a 10-yard game-winning run.
“It’s a credit to him, his mental toughness. He’s a gamer,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica of Dumas, who left the game with after several big hits in the second half and was replaced by Sutton Bourgeois for an extended period of time. “More importantly, we put a lot on his plate tonight, and he had to do more because the rest of our guys weren’t doing enough.”
“I got the wind knocked out of me,” said Dumas, who finished with 51 yards passing and two total touchdowns. “They hit me square a couple times, and I just had to calm myself down and settle down and just play the game.”
What motivated Dumas to come back into the game after taking the hits he did from the St. James defense?
“Tough guys have tenacity,” he said. “That’s what football is. You’re going to get hit, but you’ve got to get up and keep going.”