St. James was supposed to be part of a four-game, eight-team “Battle of New Orleans” Spring Game event at Tulane on Saturday.
Because of conflicting events including numerous graduations at Tulane, parking was among several concerns so the event was moved at short notice.
The venue was moved to St. James. Play began at noon, with the Wildcats being featured in the finale at 6 p.m. against McMain.
St. James won it’s game 28-0 but more than the result, a new event for concluding spring practice might be on the horizon.
“If the people want to come back, we have plenty of jambalaya. That’s the bribe – I’ll give you some jambalaya. We have some of the best jambalaya in the world. We put that on the table and that was enough to seal the deal,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
The idea, said Valdez, was to make the event a showcase.
“We want to get these kids recruited,” the St. James coach said. “When you do it like this and you get eight teams in one location, it helps recruiting and identifying kids.
“Schools with facilities like this can invite people in and make it a one-stop shop. I think had maybe 25 or more college coaches here evaluating and assessing.”
The St. James defense set up three scores for the Wildcats’ offense in the first half of the game that featured two, 30-minute running-clock halves.
St. James led 21-0 at halftime after scoring on drives of 30, 30 and 43 yards – all set up by McMain turnovers. The entire first half was played on the Wildcats’ side of the field.
“Their scheme lent itself to our (defensive) talent. They were kind of spread and good thing that we have is we can run. I’m just pleased with that,” said Valdez.
The Mustangs turned the ball over three plays into the game when Deandre Keller’s sack of McMain quarterback Christopher Armstrong led to a fumble that was recovered by Savion Jones at the 30-yard line.
Three plays later, St. James led 7-0 on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Shamar Smith to receiver Shazz Preston.
Midway in the opening half, Keshawn Coleman returned an interception 29 yards into the end zone. Turnovers were unable to be advanced in the game, so the Wildcats took possession at the point of the interception.
Two plays later, Sean Lebeouf scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0 with 9:44 left in the half.
McMain turned the ball over again on its next possession, this time with Deshawn Jenkins, who will be a freshman in the fall, recovering a fumble at the McMain 43.
A 13-yard toss from quarterback Marquell Bergeron to Daniel Jupiter made it 21-0 at halftime.
St. James scored it could score in big-play fashion in the second half.
On the first play following a McMain punt that gave the Mustangs the ball at the St. James 40-yard line, Smith tossed to Kaden Williams, who raced along the sideline in front of the McMain bench all the way for the score to make it 28-0.
When the McMain offense didn’t turn the ball over, the Mustangs showed some good moments on defense. The Mustangs forced a field goal in the first half that the Wildcats missed and twice in the second half stopped St. James deep in McMain territory.
“It’s a testament to our kids; they played hard. In the past, they wouldn’t have played through that. Our kids played hard. I’m really proud of my guys,” said first-year McMain coach Shan Williams, a one-time East St. John assistant.
Both coaches said they liked the format for the game.
“It flows a lot better,” said Williams, comparing it to a controlled scrimmage. “Thirty minutes running time, we got in a lot of work. We eliminated special teams, but still, we had a lot of good work and had a chance to see kids in all kinds of situations. You get to see game situations, which you really need to see them in. You are not going to get the ball first-and-goal all the time.”
“I want to get my kids ready to play the game,” Valdez said. “I don’t like those controlled scrimmages and scripted things. Football is like life; it’s not controlled and scripted. It’s as close to as we can to playing a real game.
“It feels like a game. It’s good for our coaches to manage substitutions. It’s good for our coaches to manage all these different things.”