Through a jamboree and season opener, the East St. John Wildcats seem to have found a formula that works.
The Wildcats have been scoring or virtually every offensive possession of the first half in building a big, early lead and cruising to victory.
“I think right now we are in a really good place. Our kids are really buying in. They understand our expectations and they are going out and playing hard and playing fast offensively and defensively,” East St. John coach Brandon Brown said.
The formula could be a bit more difficult on Friday when East St. John (1-0) plays at St. James. The battle of Wildcats is slated to kick off at 7 p.m.
Like East St. John, St. James (1-0) is capable of putting a lot of points on the board offensively while shutting opponents down defensively.
“When I look at them, I just look at a championship ball club,” Brown said of St. James. “They are very good offensively. They are very good defensively. They have a really good kicker and they are good in the kicking game. In order to be successful, you have to be sound in all areas of the game and that’s what I see when I see St. James.
“They are a very good opponent. We will have our work cut out for us. We just have to go out and play. It will be a hostile environment. That’s what you play the game for. It’s football at its best.”
“Shamar Smith is a touchdown waiting to happen,” Brown said. “The dangerous thing is with him at quarterback he touches the ball on every play. He can hurt you with his arm. I was impressed with his accuracy in the jamboree and Week 1. He can hurt you with his legs. He does a really good job when things break down. He can get himself out of a jam.
“They are a zone spread team but when you have a guy like Shamar Smith running your offense, you can run almost anything and it will work.”
Joining Smith in the backfield is running back Sean Lebeouf.
“It’s speed, speed, speed,” Brown said of Lebeouf. “He runs the ball hard. He runs behind his pads well. He has big-play ability with his speed. He runs the ball well but they also throw him some balls out in the flat. He’s just a complete back.”
When Smith is not throwing to Lebeouf, he has numerous other targets with a receiving corps that consists of the likes of Shen Joseph, Tyler Steib, Shazz Preston and Logan Gravois.
“They can hurt you with any one of those guys.”
With Robert Valdez at the helm, you can expect the former Southern University lineman to have a top-notch offensive line, said Brown.
“The offensive line is very physical and has some good size,” the East St. John coach said. “Coach Valdez is an offensive line guy so his offensive line is always going to be ready to play and be prepared
“That’s where the game will be won or lost – up front. He does a really good job with his offensive line and we like to hang our hat with our defensive line.
St. James’ 3-3 Stack defense, Brown said, seems pretty well stacked up front with the trio of Chas Geason, Savion Jones and DeAndre Keller.
“They are a 3-3 Stack and those three guys up front is probably as good as it gets when you talk about Geason, Jones and Keller. They are probably three of the better guys we will see all year. They are very active. They move well. They are very disciplined. They use their hands well,” said Brown.
Another top defender is middle linebacker Lamon Lewis, according to Brown.
“He runs well. He’s kind of like the clean-up guy. They have those three big guys up front and he’s roaming from tackle to tackle,” said Brown.
St. James also possesses a solid kicking game. Alec Mahler handles the punting and kicking chores and consistently puts his kickoffs int the end zone.
“That kind of diminishes our return game. He’s a touchback. He will make sure they have a touchdown and it plays in their favor. That means our offense has to go 80 yards. He also does a really good job in the punt game,” Brown said.
Avoiding the big play – and having the ability to move on should one occur – will be a key component for the East St. John Wildcats on Friday, according to their coach.
“They have big-plays guys. Those will happen from time-to-time. Our guys have to maintain focus and have a short-term memory. If something bad happens, we have to forget about it and play the next play.”