- Game Recap
- George Becnel
- November 10, 2018 - 3:01am
It might not have exactly been a “defense wins championships” type of game, but defense certainly won a playoff opener for St. James on Friday night in Vacherie.
The Wildcats played top-notch defense all night, allowing St. James to maintain a 2-0 lead through halftime before pulling away for a 25-0 win over rival Donaldsonville in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“Our defense played lights out. It’s an old cliché but defense wins championships and with the way our defense is playing right now, we can hang our hats on defense,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
St. James, the No. 9 seed, will travel to Springhill in north Louisiana next Friday to take on No. 8 seed North Webster, a 41-8 winner over Albany.
The Wildcats improved to 7-4 with the win over Donaldsonville while the Tigers ended their season at 5-6.
On a night with temperatures in the low 50s and a steady, biting wind, kicking or throwing the ball against the wind was quite a challenge and St. James’ defense ruled the night.
The game was a rematch of the District 10-3A opener from earlier in the year the Wildcats won 22-0. St. James’ defense did not allow the Tigers to score a single point through eight quarters this season.
“That’s big. That says a lot for our kids and a lot for what we are doing defensively,” said Valdez.
St. James defensive lineman Chase Geason came up with two of his three sacks in the first half t set the early tone for the Wildcats.
“Coach told me that I’m the best and nobody can block me. That was my mindset and that’s what I do,” Geason said.
“He did a great job,” Valdez said of Geason. “Those guys defensively, they played bend but don’t break and I said it takes a whole unit. It will take efforts like this.”
Wildcat defensive back Brad Batiste contributed a key interception when Donaldsonville was driving late in the first half and fellow St. James defender Tyler Steib sealed the win with an interception return for a touchdown late in the game.
For all of the defensive heroics, St. James maintained only a 2-0 lead going into the second half before the Wildcats seemed to warm to the elements coming out of the locker room.
“It got hot in there a little bit,” Valdez said with a smile. “We just challenged our kids to execute the game plan and I think they did. I think the sense of urgency came out and I think they did a good job. Shamar is a catalyst and he puts us in a position to be successful.”
With Donaldsonville kicking into the wind to start the third quarter, the Wildcats opened the second half at their own 40-yard line.
Shamar Smith, the St. James quarterback, directed the Wildcats down the field. Facing third-and-8 from the Donaldsonville 9-yard line, Smith ran to his right for a touchdown to extend the SJH advantage to 9-0.
“I saw (the Tiger defenders) overplaying on the play so I thought I could make somebody miss and I made them miss and I got in the end zone,” said Smith.
“We really wanted to be aggressive with the wind and that’s what we were trying to do. The third quarter we came out aggressive with the wind and wanted to throw the ball a little bit more,” said Valdez, whose team attempted five passes in the 10-play drive.
A short punt into the wind gave the Wildcats good field position once again and St. James took advantage when Alec Mahler connected on a 39-yard field goal to make it 12-0 at the 5:19 mark of the third quarter.
With 2:25 left in the game, Smith broke free on a 52-yard run to extend the St. James lead to 18-0.
Moments later, Steib returned a tip-drill interception 52 yards for a touchdown to put a final stamp on the Wildcats’ 25-0 victory.
“Our linebacker, Lamon Lewis, told us to ‘put the nail in the coffin,’ and that’s what we did. We didn’t give up until the clock hit three zeroes,” said Steib.
The only points of the first half came when a center snap to the Donaldsonville punter from the Tigers’ 26 went over the head of the D’Ville punter and through the end zone for a 2-0 St. James lead at the5:58 mark of the first quarter.
SJH’s first possession started at the Donaldsonville 33 after the Tigers got off an 18-yard punt against the stiff, unrelenting wind.
St. James was unable to take advantage of the field position. St. James failed to get off a field goal try from 49 yards out with the wind at Mahler’s back due to a bad snap by the Wildcats.
Donaldsonville managed to mov the ball in the second quarter, coming up with timely third-down conversions, several coming on short screen passes.
Penalties hampered Donaldsonville’s efforts in the first half with four start infractions and two offside calls.
Two plays after Donaldsonville converted a third-and-13 from its own 32 on a pass from Treveyon Brown to Jeffery Johnson, Batiste, the Wildcats’ resident ballhawk, picked off a Brown pass at the St. James 30 with 39 seconds left in the first half.
“I thought he was going to run it back if he didn’t slip a little bit. They always seem to kind of throw the ball in his area and he makes plays,” Valdez said of Batiste.