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West St. John Rams battle visiting Varnado in district showdown

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  • George Becnel
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  • October 17, 2017 - 8:11pm

File photosWest St. John's defense faces a Wing-T team for the second week in a row when the Rams host Varnado in a District 8-1A showdown Friday night in Edgard.


It’s cool around West St. John.

“I was dreaming that it was snowing. We won’t take it that far but I appreciate the breeze,” Rams coach Brandon Walters said.

Cooler temperatures and low humidity, coupled with morning practices because the school is on fall break, had Walters and his Rams, many of whom have to play on offense, defense and special teams, enjoying practice.

“The heat, playing on the turf, it goes up a bit more temperature-wise. They (are in pretty good shape now. We haven’t had many issues with people cramping up and stuff like that. Definitely, the (change) in weather helps a lot. Generally, those big guys don’t get as tired. Those skilled guys can run all day but those big linemen, when it’s cool; those polar bears feel a lot better,” said Walters.

Be it polar bears or skilled guys who seem to run like deer, things will turn hot on Friday night when the Rams host Varnado.

Both teams enter Friday’s showdown 2-0 in District 8-1A. West St. John is 6-1 overall and tied for No. 9 in the Class 1A poll. Varnado is 4-2 overall. WSJ is No. 1 in the unofficial Class 1A power ratings while Varnado is No. 2.

As the only unbeaten teams in league play, the winner of Friday’s game in Edgard will be in command of the district race with only two games remaining in the regular season.

“We have kind of dubbed this game the ‘district championship.’ We talk about it every week, but this week we really, really mean it. We know what’s at stake,” Walters said.

Varnado runs a Wing-T offense. West St. John faced the offense just a week ago against Covenant Christian. Lions running back Devante Johnson broke loose on a 68-yard sprint a minute into the game but after that, the Rams’ defense shut down Covenant Christian on their way to a 53-7 triumph.

“They run Wing-T but they also get out of it and spread it out a little bit and show you some different formations when they will throw the ball,” Walters said of Varnado.

Directing the offense is quarterback James Williams.

“He has a good strong arm. He can get out there in space and make you miss. He runs their offense pretty well,” said Walters.

Carrying the load in the backfield is JaDarrell McGee. The 5-foot-10, 195 pound senior reminds Walters of one of his own players, the coach said.


JaDarrell McGee plays fullback and halfback. He kind of runs like Nico,” said Walters, referring to Nico Roy, the Rams’ bruising runner, who like McGee, also plays on defense.

Williams has a pair of pass-catching threats.

“Desmond Harry is their go-to guy. Armontee Kemp is a real good receiver. They like to get the ball in his hands,” said Walters.

Having faced a Wing-T team two weeks in a row can only help to prepare the Rams for things that may come later in the year, according to Walters.

“The kids said in our film session, ‘Coach, it’s good we’re seeing a Wing-T team now.’ Maybe they are learning something. Seeing those types of teams earlier than we would normally see them is a good thing for us. Last year in the playoffs it was a lot of pounding and double tight ends and the Power-I and stuff like that until we got to Many, which runs the Wing-T,” said Walters.

Like with the offense, the Rams are familiar with Varnado’s 4-2-5 defense – the same alignment used by West St. John.

“They play cover-3 with one safety high and crowd the box a little bit. We get that from a lot of people; they want to stop the run. They put those guys at the line of scrimmage and send a few people here and there. Those guys are pretty much going to be in the box to help with the run defense,” Walters explained.

Along with McGee at linebacker, Harry and Kemp also play on defense for Varnado in the secondary. Many of the linemen double up as well.

“It will be similar with guys going both ways (for both teams) and fighting for it,” said Walters.

The Rams have been on a roll against Class 1A competition, topping 50 points in each of their last three games. Playing consistent football should go a long way toward the Rams stepped closer to a district title, said Walters.

“We need to stick to the play of what we do. We need to keep attacking offensively and defensively. We just need to play sound football,” the West St. John 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.