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St. Charles Comets shut out St. James in regular season finale

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  • Feature Story
  • Game Recap
  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • November 04, 2017 - 1:05am

Frank Monica (right) and Robert Valdez (L) shake hands after St. Charles shut out St. James 14-0.

In a battle of Top 10 teams, it simply came down to one team making a few more plays than the other in St. Charles Catholic’s 14-0 win over visiting St. James in a District 10-3A showdown Friday night in Laplace.

With both teams playing stellar defense, St. James, ranked No. 10 in Class 3A, appeared to be headed for the locker room at halftime down only 7-0 and scheduled to receive the football to start the second half.

The Wildcats forced a seventh-ranked St. Charles punt in the closing moments of the first half. Shawn Preston, St. James’ all-everything Mississippi State commitment, muffed the punt, giving the Comets new life at the Wildcats’ 20-yard line with 2:14 remaining in the opening quarter.

“We can’t have those mistakes in a big game like that. It put them right in perfect field position,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.

Two plays later, senior Lloyd Nash, making his first start at quarterback since suffering a broken clavicle the Comets’ season opener against Chalmette, raced in from 9 yards out with 1:03 remaining before halftime to put St. Charles up by two touchdowns.

“It felt good getting out there back with my guys and doing what it takes to win,” Nash said.

“We blitzed to try and create a momentum-type play and Nash is a good quarterback and he’s their leader and he made a couple of big plays,” said Valdez.

St. James (7-3 overall, 3-2 in district) started its opening possession of the second half backed up to its own 10-yard line following a penalty on the kick return.

The Wildcats faced a third-and-4 from their own 42 when Nash, playing defensive back, deflected a pass from St. James quarterback Shamar Smith into the hands of Dontaz Sterling for a 37-yard gain.

St. James eventually faced fourth-and-3 from the St. Charles 14 but Smith was stopped short on a quarterback draw and the Wildcats were forced to give up the ball on downs.

The Comets (8-2 overall, 4-1 in district) drove on the ensuing possession, reaching the St. James 28. Facing fourth-and-12, a pass from Nash to Joe Chiarella, also seeing his first action in several weeks, came up a bit short and St. Charles also turned the ball over on downs.

Although St. Charles didn’t score on the drive, the Comets did use up more than six minutes on the clock.

“They flipped the field on that possession. We have to take advantage of those opportunities. If we advantage and score it makes (the Comets) open up a little bit more. They tried to stay away from opening it up because Nash got hit a couple of times and they didn’t want that to happen,” Valdez said.

The Comets managed to hold onto the ball for 15:04 of the second half and effectively kept the Wildcats from mounting a rally.

After St. Charles’ time-consuming drive, the Wildcats managed only three more possessions the remainder of the game. The final possession came with only moments remaining in the game and ended on a Nash interception of a Smith pass.

“We got eight wins and with all the adversity we’ve been through this year, I’m just tickled pink for these kids, especially the seniors, we never were really healthy from Week 1. We just hoping that maybe we get a couple of people back and we get ready for this playoff run,” St. Charles coach Frank Monica said.

Monica’s health seemed to be in question in the third quarter. He went down to one knee along the sideline and appeared a bit lightheaded. It caused paramedics to bring out a stretcher but seconds later the veteran coach was back on the field arguing with the officials.

Although St. James lost its final game of the regular season, Valdez said he saw things he liked from his Wildcats.

“Going into Week 10, the good part about this is I saw my guys compete against a real good football team. We are going into the tournament next week and I think a lot of things we did against this good football team we have to polish up and we can’t have those missed opportunities,” the St. James coach said.

St. Charles faced third-and-22 from its own 15-yard line on the opening possession of the game when Lloyd sidestepped his way to the right sideline in front of the Comets bench and raced to midfield. A facemask call against St. James on the play advanced the ball to the Wildcats’ 35.

Phillip Tran broke loose up the middle for 33 yards down to the 2-yard line. Narquez Jones ran in on the next play to give SCC a 7-0 lead only 2:02 into the game.

“We scored early and it just kind of jumpstarted the team. It was an ugly first half, an ugly game offensively, but the defense held it down and we came out victorious,” said Nash.

Each team attempted to convert on fourth down on the next two possessions. St. James was stopped when a Smith pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 from the SCC 30. Meanwhile, the Comets turned the ball over on downs when Nash was sacked for a 5-yard loss when facing fourth-and-6 from the St. James 31.

“The defense is what we hang our hat on. Our defense is pretty stout. Our defense is something we believe in and keeps us in games,” said Valdez.

St. James threatened midway in the second quarter, reaching the SCC 31 before Comets defensive back Bryce Authement intercepted a Smith pass on the possession prior to the muffed punt.

“We had our chances,” Valdez said. “We had some turnovers in positions that stalled some drives. We dropped some passes and we made a couple of mistakes.”

Smith ended the game 10 of 23 passing for 131 yards. Demarcus Williams played the opening possession for St. James coming back from a lengthy knee injury and completed a flea-flicker for 36 yards on his only pass attempt in his brief stint at quarterback.

Sterling led the Wildcats with 102 yards receiving and in rushing with 59 yards on six attempts.

Nash finished 5 of 9 passing for 43 yards while also rushing for 63 yards on 13 attempts.

Tran had 69 yards rushing on 12 carries while Chiarella ran for 47 yards on seven attempts.

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.