- Feature Story
- Game Preview
- George Becnel
- November 08, 2017 - 2:31pm
When Week 11 arrives in high school football, you can call it whatever you want - either playoffs or postseason.
Robert Valdez has his own term.
“I call it the single-elimination tournament,” the St. James coach said.
One loss at any point in the tournament means you are out. So, it helps if you go into it well prepared.
St. James is one of those well-prepared teams. At 7-3, the Wildcats earned the No. 4 seed in Class 3A and will host No. 29 Marksville on Friday night.
Of the Wildcats’ three losses, one came to unbeaten De La Salle, another two one-loss Class 5A St. Amant, and last week St. James fell to St. Charles Catholic. The Comets had two losses on the season – one to De La Salle and the other to Class 5A East Ascension.
Among the Wildcats’ seven wins was a victory over E.D. White, handing the Cardinals their only loss of the season.
“I don’t know how many teams we will see the caliber of the teams we lost to. Even some of the teams we’ve beaten, everybody we played, with the exception of Haynes, qualified for the playoffs. It’s been almost like 10 games of playoffs,” Valdez said.
Marksville is 5-5 on the season and has some familiarity with the River Parishes. The Tigers helped Lutcher gain its first win of the season earlier this year and Marksville was one of the Bulldogs’ playoff victims a year ago on the way to a second-straight state title for LHS.
The Tigers present a unique challenge on offense. Marksville will line up in a spread offense but also morph into a sort of hybrid Wing-T.
“They will come out, more than likely, in a spread. If they can’t get it, they will go back to that hybrid Wing-T. If they fall behind, then they go back to opening it up. They really want ball control. If they feel like you can’t cover them or feel like they need some momentum, they go back to it, as well,” Valdez explained.
The Tigers are led by dual-threat quarterback Daniel Miller. Miller has rushed for 724 yards this season while passing for 431.
“He runs the ball very well, especially when they go to a hybrid Wing-T thing they do. He does a good job with the misdirection and throws the ball exceptionally well which leads you to believe they can possibly do that if they wanted to,” said Valdez.
Joining Miller in the backfield are Kirk Carmouche and Trajan Alexander. Carmouche has rushed for just shy of 1,000 yards this season.
“If you get caught looking in the backfield, those backs will confuse you. They are misdirection all over the place and trying to find the ball, it’s like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ sometimes,” said Valdez.
Carmouche, Alexander and Miller run behind a veteran offensive line that features three seniors and two junior.
When the Tigers attempt to open up the passing game, the main targets are Fabian Jacobs and Deon Prater. Other receivers include Jacob Young and Braydon Flores.
Marksville plays a five-man Bear front on defense and cover all five of an opponents’ offensive linemen.
“They will play cover-zero and man free,” Valdez said. “They will lock up in your face and they will try to blitz one more than you can block. It will be up to your quarterback to be able to throw the ball quick.
“Their defensive linemen cut your offensive linemen every play. They get in their stance and nosedive and they submarine your linemen every play. It makes sense because they want to create congestion. They are not a big team but they want to clog up the inside gaps and force you outside and they have guys basically waiting for you. They will play the free safety at about six yards and they will play those linebackers real, real tight.”
Top defenders include strong-side linebacker Chance Bonnett and defensive end Shawn Williams.
“They like to play (Williams) at defensive end and stand him up and they like to clog everything up and funnel you to those two guys,” Valdez said.
If Wildcat runners can get past the initial point of attack, there is a chance for St. James to come up with some big plays against Marksville’s defense, according to Valdez.
“You still have to run the ball. Once you break the line of scrimmage, they may not have anybody there. They want to make every tackle behind the line of scrimmage,” Valdez said.