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Kentwood final challenge in WSJ’s quest for state championship

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  • George Becnel
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  • December 05, 2017 - 5:47pm

File photosCoach Brandon Walters and his West St. John Rams need a win over Kentwood on Thursday afternoon to bring the Class 1A state title back to Edgard.

The West St. John Rams really seem to like a challenge.

In order to reach Thursday’s Class 1A state championship game, West St. John had to get past a Logansport team that was the defending state champion and riding a 27-game winning streak.

“We get a quality opponent like Logansport, who are on a high with a 27-game winning streak that was all those kids (Rams players) needed to hear: ‘you mean we get to do this? We get our chance to put our stamp on that?’ West St. John coach Brandon Walters said.

Except for two touchdowns by the Tigers in the span of 26 seconds late in the first half, it was more like a stomp than a stamp for the Rams in their 34-18 semifinal win last Friday in Edgard that extended WSJ’s own winning streak to nine games.

The final challenge of the 2017 season for top-seeded West St. John comes at noon Thursday when the Rams take on No. 3 seed Kentwood for the state championship at the Superdome in New Orleans.

There also is a bit of a challenge within a challenge. There was little time to savor the semifinal triumph with the quick turnaround for the championship game.

“We are short one day,” Walters said. “Generally, during the week during our regular practices, we shut it down about Wednesday anyway. That’s our last real ‘work’ day to go at it and we have a walk-through on the Thursday.

“I didn’t want to practice (Sunday). I wanted to give the kids the time to enjoy what they accomplished. This time of year, if you are not in shape, you are not going to be in shape. It’s more getting the kids a good amount of rest.”

The Rams (11-2) are certainly familiar with the Kangaroos (11-3). The teams met in each of previous two regular seasons, with Kentwood coming out on top both times. The Kangaroos defeated the Rams 35-22 in 2015 and 15-0 last season.

In a measure of how different the potent Rams are from a year ago, West St. John was held to 182 yards of total offense in the shutout loss to Kentwood.

“We do that in practice now,” Walters joked.

Directing Kentwood’s spread offense is quarterback Larenz Morris.

“He’s a pretty shifty guy,” Walters said of Morris. “He has a decent arm. He can throw the ball and get it downfield. He has athletes to make plays for him. He looks to run it a lot. He likes to take off with it and gets you in some mismatches in coverage and kind of spread you out.”

The bulk of the carries go to 210-pound junior running back Larry Carter.

“He doesn’t go down easy and will drag a few of them if you are not there correctly,” said Walters.

The receiving corps consists of Edward Magee, Devion Hookin and Trey Palmer. Palmer has received offers from LSU as a junior.

“They have him in the slot mostly. They do a lot with him in motion and give him jet sweeps or they get him in space and run tunnel screens to him,” Walters said of Palmer.

The Kangaroos feature a big offensive line, including the likes of 6-foot-6, 250-pound Eric Dunn, 6-foot, 250-pound Justin Ulschak and 6-foot-3, 260-pound Kendall Wilkerson.

The size of the line can make Morris, at 5-foot-10, a little hard to find at times, according to Walters.

“They are very tall but not as thick as your average offensive line. They get the job done inside with moving people around and get you in space and try to create a little seam for the quarterback to get through. The quarterback is a short kid so it doesn’t seem like they need much space to get it done,” the West St. John coach explained.

The Kangaroos play a four-man front on defense.

“They like to send some pressure. They are pretty strong inside. Their defensive line is pretty good but those guys are playing both sides of the ball as well. It’s 1A ball. In the trenches, I don’t think they have as many (going both ways),” Walters said.

Radarrian Robbins likes to come off the edge for Kentwood, while most of the receiving corps also play in the secondary.

Big games and opponents seem to bring out the best in the Rams and Walters said he expects that to be the case Thursday afternoon.

“They respond to the bright lights and the big games. Going into the game this week, that’s what I’m really encouraged by.”

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.