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St. James Wildcats host top-ranked De La Salle in key district clash

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  • George Becnel
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  • October 19, 2017 - 11:42am

File photosThe St. James Wildcats, ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, hosts top-ranked De La Salle in a District 10-3A clash Friday night at Wildcat Stadium in Vacherie.

“This is it. You can’t ask for better than that; taking on the No. 1 team in the state,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.

That pretty much sums things up as St. James gets ready to host top-ranked De La Salle on Friday night to start a three-week round-robin showdown in District 10-3A.

St. James, which is ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, takes on De La Salle, the No. 1 team in Class 3A. Over the following two weeks, St. Charles Catholic, which is ranked No. 6, joins in the fun with games against De La Salle and St. James.

“Our district is ridiculous. In the next three weeks, we will be playing the No. 1 ranked team in the state and the No. 6 ranked team in the state – and we are not so bad ourselves, either,” said Valdez.

Just how ridiculously good is District 10-3A? St. James is ranked No. 1 in the unofficial power ratings in Class 3A while St. Charles is No. 1 and De La Salle is No. 3 in the Division II power ratings.

“I think the games we have played should have us prepared to play against them,” Valdez said of facing De La Salle. “We will just go out there and play Wildcat football and try and see if we can poke the bear and get them upset.”

The Cavaliers, who enter the game 6-0 overall and 2-0 in District 10-3A, have simply powered past their opponents this season. De La Salle’s only close game this season was a 28-26 triumph over Karr, a fellow powerhouse. In a pair of district wins over struggling Haynes Academy and Lusher, the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents 119-12.

“They want to play power football. They want to bring everything downhill and get real, real physical with you. They do have the ability to throw the football but their mantra is to line up in pro personnel and just run power and run it down your throat,” Valdez said of the De La Salle offense.

Guiding the Cavaliers’ offense is burly quarterback Julien Gums, a Nicholls commitment.

“He’s big and physical and he understands the offense that they run,” said Valdez.

If Gums is not running the ball, the chore generally goes to Kendall Collins.

“He’s kind of perfect for the system they run because they are basically a power team and once he gets in the open field, he has the ability and speed to blow by people. He catches the ball well. He’s compact and strong,” Valdez said of Collins.

The Cavaliers’ biggest strength may be the offensive line, according to Valdez.

“Their offense is methodical. They don’t do anything extremely fast. They will pick up the pace a little bit against some of the teams they’ve played but they want to feed you a steady dose of power. When you have offensive linemen their size, they lean on you and lean on you and you wear down,” the St. James coach said.

On defense, the Cavaliers line up in an even-man front.

“They are basically a 4-4 and 4-2-5 team. They try to keep everything in front of them. They play cover-3 and cover-2. They do some slanting and stuff along the defensive line where they take chances. They are very well-coached and disciplined,” explained Valdez.

The leader up front is Jamiran James, a Tulane commitment.

“He’s quick and fast. I call him a bull in the china cabinet because he disrupts so much. He is a guy you have to account for. You have to figure out how to block him but then they have other guys like Theodore Tyler and those guys. They have a real nice, physical defensive front that runs well,” Valdez said.

Valdez said he is anxious to see how his team stacks up against the top-ranked team in Class 3A.

“We will play Wildcat football. They have to come to our stadium and we will just get after them. I don’t believe in letting anybody come in here and push you around. We have to get real physical. We are playing to win,” the St. James coach said.

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.