- Game Recap
- Eric Richey
- September 01, 2017 - 11:39pm
St. James coach Robert Valdez has enjoyed some amazing wins through the years on both sides of the Railroad Classic. But after his Wildcats stormed back from a 27-6 deficit to pull out a 36-33 win over St. James even he seemed stunned.
"I think this may be the sweetest one of all (Railroad Classic wins) but I'm at a loss for words; usually I know what to say," Valdez said moments after his team staged the improbable comeback.
When Rams running back Nico Davis barreled into the end zone from a yard out for his second touchdown of the game, West St. John had a 33-15 lead with 4:52 left in the third quarter. From there, it was all St. James with special teams playing a huge role.
Early the fourth quarter the Wildcats blocked a punt deep inside West St. John territory. Dontaz Sterling scored on a 3-yard run and after the two-point conversion was intercepted in the end zone, the Wildcats trailed 33-21.
On their next possession, Demarcus Williams connected with Shamar Smith, who took a short pass and blazed his way 77 yards for his third touchdown reception of the night. Alec Mahler's extra point was good and the lead was cut to five with West St. John leading 33-28 with 7:58 to play.
The Rams' ensuing drive went three-and-out with a high snap on the punt giving the ball back to the Wildcats at the West St. John 22. One player later, Sterling dashed off the right side and exploded into the end zone high-stepping with the go-ahead touchdown. Williams kept it himself on the conversion and St. James had come all the way back to take the 36-33 lead with 6:45 lefin the fourth quarter.
From there, St. James controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and eventually ran out the clock.
Like Valdez, West St. John coach Brandon Walters has seen his share of wild finishes in this rivalry, including a 12-6 West St. John win in his first game as a head coach in 2015. It's safe to say he was seeing red after this one - or in this case -yellow (as in penalty flags).
"I mean some things are just out of our hands," said Walters. "We're playing good ball we're in position where we're supposed to be, some things we just can't control. There's no way that we're 15 plays that bad, personal fouls, you name it. There's no way we get all those calls, just in the red zone. They kept coming until they got in the end zone. I don't make excuses; our guys played hard we should have won this game.
"It's just tough sometimes when you got to play at your own stadium and deal with some of those type things. We've got to clean up the mistakes that we had; we definitely have to play sound ball. Some of those penalties, yes they were on us. But all of that? It can't be. It can't be."
As for Valdez? He's still undefeated in the Railroad Classic as a head coach for both schools.
"I think this week has been stressful with everything that we had going on with breaking their rhythm of practice with all of the stuff with (the remnants of Hurricane Harvey)," said Valdez. "These are kids. At the end of the day these are kids. It's a big arena; it's a big rivalry and all that. Couple that with the emotions and all the energy and stress levels and all that. We just made a ton of mistakes but we were able to hold the rope and just hang in there. If you ask me twenty years from now how we did it I'm still going to tell you I don't know what we did."
Williams was 7 of 16 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 66 yards.
Smith, just a sophomore, had three receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Although the Rams didn't get to taste victory, they had a night full of big plays.
Sophomore quarterback D'Andre Gaudia connected with Dontrell Davis, who stretched over the plane of the goal line for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 13-0 lead on their first possession of the second quarter.
Davis barreled over defenders on his way to a 24-yard touchdown run to give West St. John a 20-6 lead.
Junior defensive end Jonathan Porter encumbered a Wildcat in the end zone then pounced on the loose ball for a defensive touchdown giving the Rams a 27-6 lead.
Next week West St. John will face South Plaquemines while St. James plays its home opener against rival Lutcher.
"We got to regroup and get back after it next week, another roller coaster ride next week. I'm happy to be 1-0 right now. I'm just really happy to be 1-0," said Valdez.