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West St. John knocks off defending champs to advance to Superdome

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  • Feature Story
  • Game Recap
  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • December 01, 2017 - 11:51pm

West St. John's Covan Barnes (9) and Horace Lewis sack Logansport quarterback Dalton Shaw in the Rams' 34-18 win to send the Rams to the state championship game.

Except for a 26-second span late in the first half, West St. John dominated its Class 1A semifinal game Friday night against visiting Logansport, the defending state champions.

Because of that 26-second span, what appeared a likely three-touchdown lead for the Rams at halftime suddenly became a precarious 21-12 edge for West St. John at the break.

That gave an even greater urgency to the opening possession of the third quarter.

West St. John had the lead but Logansport had the momentum. The Tigers appeared to force WSJ into a three-and-out except the Rams elected to try on convert on fourth-and-1 from their own 39.

The ball went to Nico Roy. The burly running back was hit initially before breaking off a 6-yard gain for a first down.

Later in the drive, West St. John faced fourth-and-1 from the Logansport 36. A penalty left the Rams needing 6 yards for a first down and WSJ again elected to convert. Roy burst right up the middle this time, dragging a pile of would-be tacklers an additional 10 yards for a first down at the 22-yard line.

“We just wanted to pound the ball on them. That’s all we wanted to do and run the clock out on them,” Roy said.

“It’s attitude. We believe in those guys. We believe in the offensive line. We think anything inside five or six yards, we can get it. We tell the line, ‘bite your mouthpiece and let’s go forward and everybody bury somebody.’ That’s our mantra. That’s what we do offensively and it works,” said West St. John coach Brandon Walters.

“We just told the o-line, we’ve just got to push and get it, and they got it,” West St. John sophomore quarterback D’andre Gaudia said.

Three plays later, Kylan Duhe ran up the middle for 16 yards and a touchdown to build the Rams’ lead to 28-12 on the way to a 34-18 triumph that sent West St. John to the state championship next Thursday against Kentwood.

“We just needed to score. We just let the big man (Roy) do what he has to do and once they told me to punch it in, I had to punch it in,” Duhe said of his touchdown.

Rams mistakes allowed Logansport to score two quick touchdowns late in the first half to make a game of it, but the touchdown to open the third quarter put West St. John back on track.

“That’s all we needed. I always tell those guys when we talk among each other, ‘with a good lead, we are fine.’ All we need is a few points and give the defense a little more comfort but they are going to play,” Walters said.

It looked as though the Tigers might quickly regain the momentum on a long pass by Logansport quarterback Dalton Shaw. Trevion Daughtry beat the Rams secondary on the play but WSJ’s Dontrell Davis stole the ball from the Logansport receiver and returned the ball to midfield.

“He had the ball in his hands. I just jerked it out. I had to do it for my team to get this win,” Davis said.

The win was virtually in hand at that point for the Rams. West St. John missed a field goal following Davis’ interception but with Logansport unable to stop WSJ’s running game, the Rams attempted only one pass in the second half and controlled the clock.

Logansport’s only points in the second half came off another Rams miscue. This time, a snap over the head of the West St. John punter gave the Tigers the ball at the WSJ 10-yard line. Shaw connected with receiver John Stephens Jr. one play later to make it 28-18.

Roy put an exclamation point on the Rams’ victory with a 24-yard run with 1:24 left in the game to account for the 34-18 final that sends top-seeded West St. John to the Superdome for a noon kickoff Thursday against Kentwood.

Kentwood, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Oak Grove 19-7.

“It’s my last shot. Last year we made it to the quarterfinals and we’re going to the ‘Dome this year. It’s good,” said Duhe, a senior.

“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid,” said defensive lineman Covan Barnes, another senior.

Duhe rushed for 128 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Roy had 126 yards on 16 attempts and two touchdowns as West St. John amassed 408 yards of total offense.

Except for sheer speed, there was nothing special the Rams did against the Logansport defense, said Duhe.

“We had to outrun them. They told me they were slow and I had to outrun them. They are undefeated champions but we had to take this one from them,” said Duhe.

The same was pretty much true for the West St. John defense, according to Barnes.

“We told ourselves at the beginning of the week we would be special against them and stop them. I feel like we can beat anybody because we are physical,” Barnes said.

Logansport, which last lost came in the 2015 quarterfinals – a span of 27 games - was limited to 164 yards of total offense by the Rams’ defense.

“We came out here in our minds just to stop them. We didn’t want them to cross the 50-yard line,” said Roy, who also is the Rams’ middle linebacker.

The West St. John defense did just what it had in mind as all of the Tigers’ points in the game came on a short field via WSJ miscues – including 12 in a span of 26 seconds late in the first half.

A defensive stop gave West St. John the ball at its own 42 with 2:14 left in the opening half and the Rams leading 21-0.

On second-and-5 from the Logansport 41, Stephens, also a defensive standout for the Tigers, used every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame to pick off Gaudia at the line of scrimmage. Stephens, the son of former Northwestern State University and New England Patriots receiver of the same name, raced in for a touchdown to cut the WSJ lead to 21-6 with 30 seconds left in the half.

The Rams appeared to line up to take a knee to end the half when the officials ruled a fumble.

Curtis Zeigler’s recovery gave Logansport the ball at the West St. John 31 with 18 seconds remaining before halftime. A 25-yard toss from Shaw to Daughtry moved the ball to the 6-yard line. Stephens, a TCU commitment, hauled in a toss from Shaw with four seconds left in the half to make it 21-12 at halftime.

Until that point, the first half belonged to West St. John as the Rams took advantage of several long pass completions.

“They crowded the box and kept blitzing and sending some pressure up. The quarterback, even with his youth, he made able to make some good throws. We threw some up and Aason (Moll) had a good game catching the ball. We have a lot of threats offensively and you have to cover the entire field and something will open up for us eventually,” Walters said.

Gaudia, who was 6 of 11 for 154 yards, tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Moll on West St. John’s opening possession for a 7-0 lead at the 6:15 mark of the first quarter.

Late in the first quarter, Alyjah Borne turned a screen pass from Gaudia into a 72-yard gainer to the Logansport 4-yard line. Roy scored from a yard out two plays later for a 14-0 WSJ led with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.

West St. John built its lead to 21 points by scoring on its next possession. The big play of the drive was a 36-yard reception by Moll. Five plays later, a 1-yard run by Duhe made it 21-0 with 5:45 remaining before halftime.

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.