- Feature Story
- Game Preview
- George Becnel
- September 20, 2017 - 6:08pm
If ever there was a team in need of a road game, it’s the St. James Wildcats.
The Wildcats opened the season with thrilling wins over West St. John, Lutcher and E.D. White. The victories all came in dramatic fashion, which can take an emotional toll of a football team.
“It’s just getting a chance to get away a little bit and getting a chance to get on the bus and drive out and see something different. It gives the kids a chance to see something different and witness some different things other than what we have down here,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
During the first three weeks, the farthest the Wildcats have played from home is nearby Edgard with the Lutcher and E.D. White games at home.
Now, the Wildcats travel to north Louisiana to take on Wossman on Friday night in Monroe.
The trip may be a chance to unwind a bit for the Wildcats after such an emotional start. The Wildcats had to rally for their win over West St. John and hold off Lutcher in Week 3 before having to go to overtime to defeat E.D. White last week.
“That was a playoff game,” Valdez said of the E.D. White encounter. “It was definitely intense. Nobody wanted to lose that sucker. Nobody wanted to give up, either.”
Wanting to continue to play rivalry games and with Lutcher moving to Class 4A to become a non-district opponent, the only way the Wildcats were able to schedule all three rivals was to take then on during the opening three weeks of the season.
“We always play West St. John Week 1. That always will be there,” Valdez said. “To get Lutcher Week 2, it was ‘oh, my God,’ but we’ll take it. We have to play that game. We looked at E.D. White and the only time we can play is Week 3. Gee, whiz. We were at the mercy of the new redistricting plan,” Valdez said. “We knew coming in we potentially could be 0-3. A play here or there and we could be 0-3. We were fortunate to be 3-0.”
Friday’s game at Wossman could be the ultimate trap game, coming on the heels of the three rivalry wins. Wossman is 0-3 on the season and the St. James game will be the team’s first home contest of the season.
“I’m telling everybody, they are 0-3 but they lost to West Monroe last week, they lost to Oak Grove, which is a pretty good doggone running team, and they lost to Benton, which is a 4A team. They play some extremely tough opponents,” Valdez said.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 7 in the Class 3A poll, have experienced a bit of everything only three weeks into the season.
“In three weeks, we’ve seen three different defenses and at least two different types of offenses – spread and Wing-T…great kicking and special teams. In three weeks, we’ve seen it all. I was talking to Demarcus (Williams, the St. James quarterback) and it was like we almost played a whole season in three weeks in terms of everything we have seen. To say we are ‘battle-tested’ may be the understatement of the year,” said Valdez.
Wossman’s offense, Valdez said, is similar to the spread attack of West St. John and Lutcher.
“They like to run the power and read games. They like to throw the ball around to their receivers,” Valdez said.
Wossman plays both 6-foot-3 sophomore and 6-foot-4 senior Jalen Harris at quarterback.
Running backs Dezmeon Watson and Jerrett Johnson are used in the passing game.
“They look very quick and get the ball in space and they make some things happen,” Valdez said of the Wossman running back duo. “They are sparkplugs. They get behind that big offensive line and hide. They do a good job of isolating them on your linebackers whenever they think you are playing man-to-man and they throw the ball out of the backfield. The thing about both quarterbacks is they are so tall they can really see the routes.”
Across the Wossman offensive line are players listed at 369, 333 and 300 pounds.
“They are not the most mobile but when go forward, they all go forward in one direction and they plow,” Valdez said of the Wossman offensive line. “They are so big, sometimes they cover each other up when they are plowing.
“They definitely want to pound the ball and force you to play man-to-man defense and they want to take their chances deep when they see you playing man-to-man.”
If they get an opponent in man-to-man coverage one of the top targets for the quarterback is Johnathan West.
“They are streaky. They don’t really sustain long drives but they make big plays and that gives them momentum and an edge,” said Valdez.
Wossman is based out of a 4-2-5 defense and is very aggressive, according to Valdez.
“They blitz coming off the bus,” he said. “We almost got tired just charting blitzes. Those guys are coming. They play cover-3 and they have a huge defensive lineman, Oteago Carter. Rayland Coleman is over 300 pounds.
“They mainly blitz from the linebackers and they blitz from all angles. They try to keep everything in front of them. They run very well.”
What will it take for the Wildcats to enjoy their journey back home after the game?
“For us to be able to sleep well on the bus back home and get a little bit of rest I just think special teams need to play special, the defense has to play stingy and the offense has to not shoot itself in the foot,” Valdez said.