The key moment for Lutcher in the Bulldogs’ 48-30 season-opening loss to East Ascension last week came in the closing moments of the third quarter.
Down 31-24, the Bulldogs appeared to come up with an interception that would have given Lutcher the ball and in position to perhaps tie the game.
“The ball gets tipped and we think we get underneath if for an interception. The interception gets overturned and two plays later they score again and put the game away,” lamented Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins.
Despite the loss, the Lutcher coach found several positives from the game for the Bulldogs. Among them was the play of quarterback Kolby Bourgeois, who topped 300 yards passing with four touchdowns. Also, receiver Jacoby Williams had a single-game school record with 12 catches. After having only three receivers catch touchdown passes a year ago, four different receivers had scoring receptions against East Ascension.
On the defensive side, after not being able to force a turnover during the first week of the 2017 season, the Bulldogs intercepted two passes against the Spartans.
While the key moment in the East Ascension game came late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs’ fate was seemingly determined early in Lutcher’s 13-7 loss a year ago at St. James.
A first-quarter field-goal attempt by Lutcher was blocked by St. James. Glen Brown of the Wildcats scooped up the loose ball and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. The game remained close, but the Bulldogs never seemed to recover from that moment.
“It’s hard to say a play in the first quarter does, but sometimes, you get one big play and it sets the whole game,” Jenkins said. “I really thought it was a game where both offenses struggled. I thought both defenses played really well. A play in special teams early-on, gave them a whole lot of momentum and it was enough.”
The Bulldogs get a chance at payback against their rivals when the teams meet Friday in Lutcher.
Lutcher (0-1) is looking to bounce back from its loss to East Ascension, while St. James (1-0) is coming off a lopsided 43-0 domination of West St. John – another big Wildcat rival.
“That snowball started rolling and it turned into an avalanche real quick,” Jenkins said. “I think St. James was very opportunistic. It was a big rivalry game and you get an interception on the first play and get great field position. West St. John plays pretty good defense and then you get the pass that scores a touchdown and then you fumble the ensuing kickoff and now it’s 14-0. That avalanche started rolling downhill and it happened in a hurry. You get momentum and St. James was able to cease it and they stepped on their throat and put it away. They left no doubt.”
Jenkins, meanwhile, has no doubt about who the top playmakers are from St. James. Many are personally familiar to him back from his days when he was the Wildcats’ coach and the current SJH players were in middle school.
“Shamar Smith, we know he can make huge plays in the running game and he did that again,” Jenkins said of the St. James quarterback while referring to the West St. John game. “I was at the (St. James) jamboree and it looked like (Sean Lebeouf) he got injured, but obviously, it wasn’t very serious, because he came out and had a 100-yard game. The other running back that they kind of move all over the place, Dontaz Sterling, he’s been very versatile the last two years both as a running back but when they line him up at receiver, he is able to make big plays in the passing game.
Jenkins said Smith is a Division I athlete playing quarterback.
“Offensively, they have some skilled guys but it all kind of predicated by what Shamar Smith does. He’s a guy you have to watch out for,” said Jenkins.
Lebeouf and Sterling have similar traits and their versatility makes the duo quite dangerous, according to Jenkins.
“It gives you the opportunity to kind of change and different formation looks and sets because you have two solid running backs on the field all the time. They both are capable of running the football and getting chunk plays but they also do the little things. You see them lead block for Smith in the run game. You see them both stay in and pass protect. Both catch balls out of the backfield and both line up in the slot,” the St. James coach said.
The Wildcats also boast a pair of young receivers in She’n Joseph and Shazz Preston.
On defense, the Wildcats feature players up front such as Craig James, Savion Jones and Chase Geason who are tall and lean.
“They have two or three guys that line up at defensive end or come in at outside linebacker that are 6-4 or 6-5. They are not the heaviest guys in the world, but they look like forwards on a basketball team. That gives you some concern, especially in the passing game just because they can get their hands up and make things difficult. They are also good athletes and able to get up the field and put some pressure on the quarterback,” Jenkins said.
A defender Jenkins is familiar with is 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive lineman DeAndre’ Keller.
“He spent the last couple of years at St. Charles. He’s been a guy that everyone in the River Parishes knew about. He was a guy who worked out with us at St. James when he was a middle school kid in seventh grade. The summer before his eighth-grade year, he really had a great summer and thought he would play varsity for us and that’s when they made the move to Laplace,” said Jenkins.
“I’ve always said it since the first time I saw him, he has SEC ability and SEC size,” Jenkins continued. “He’s a defensive lineman that will have an opportunity to play big-time college football on Saturday because you don’t find guys that size that can move the way he can move.”
Along with the line, Jenkins said the Wildcats have top players on all levels of the defense.
“On the second level, Lamon Lewis at linebacker, really does a good job,” Jenkins said. “He runs to the football. I remember Lamond playing middle school football. He has a knack for making tackles. One of the guys I’m not familiar with but have really been impressed with is Kaleb Brown. I was just impressed with the way he plays the game. He plays with a lot of energy and emotion. He makes plays. He’s just a sophomore but you can see he is going to be a special player.
“In the secondary, Tyler Steib had the opportunity to play a lot for them last year and I know he is one of their leaders. He’s a guy who can be the quarterback of the defense and get guys lined up in the secondary. He’s a great tackler in space. He’s a guy on that back end that can kind of be the eraser for them and make up for mistakes that other guys make.”
Last year’s St. James-Lutcher game, Jenkins said, is a reminder of being able to handle the moment, especially in a rivalry game.
“You have to survive the emotions early-on in the game, and we didn’t,” the Lutcher coach said. “You look back on a game that is going to have 130-150 snaps, you can’t make the crucial error early-on that can end the game. You don’t know when that play will happen, but you have to stay focused and do your job and avoid it.
“Sometimes, you have to have a little luck on your side. That field goal gets blocked, it’s not a big deal if it just bounces and rolls across the line of scrimmage or bounces back and ends up in someone’s hands. You have to avoid those things.”