The numbers show just how even St. James and St. Charles Catholic are going into Friday’s encounter Friday night in Laplace.
Both teams are 7-2 overall and 3-1 in District 10-3A with losses to top-ranked De La Salle. St. James’ non-district loss was to St. Amant and St. Charles lost to East Ascension – a pair of Class 5A powers.
St. Charles is ranked No. 7 in the Class 3A poll and St. James No. 10. The Comets and Wildcats both have the third-highest power ratings – St. Charles in Division II and St. Charles in Class 3A.
“It’s a great Week 10 for us because there are a lot of implications,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said. “We both are jockeying for position for favorable rankings and power points. It’s almost like an extra week of playoffs.
“At this point, it’s a lot of psychological things that factored into a Week 10. This is a big game. You have to let your players know and everybody in the organization know that you play to win. Every time you go out, you play to win.”
The Wildcats need a win to avoid going into the playoffs having lost two of their final three games of the regular. After a 63-7 blowout loss to De La Salle in Week 8, St. James bounced back with a 24-6 victory over Lusher.
St. Charles is seeking to avoid a two-game losing streak after falling 28-0 to De La Salle last Friday.
Because of their respective records, there likely won’t be much movement either up or down in the power rankings for St. James and St. Charles – win or lose – but no one expects the Wildcats or Comets to take the night off.
“For us, we have to go out and play to win and we have to play solid, consistent football and see if we can go it against a well-coached, quality football team. We will not take that approach of resting guys because we feel like we’ve already earned a spot. We need to get better. This is a great opportunity to get better and to see if what we are doing can work against a team that has a high motor and plays very intense football. We want to see where our football team is before we get to the playoffs,” Valdez said.
St. Charles quarterback Lloyd Nash, a Nicholls verbal commitment, has missed much of the season with an injury. He returned last week against De La Salle, playing sparingly at defensive back and wide receiver.
Valdez said he feels confident Nash will play some behind center on Friday night.
“He’ll be back. I anticipate him Friday night taking some snaps and playing some defense. He is the leader of their program. The fact they played him at defensive back and he’s dressing, we anticipate he will be back under center and taking control of the offense,” the St. James coach said.
With Nash’s injury, the Comets have used Sutton Bourgeois and Jason Dumas at quarterback. Trey Joseph also has lined up in the backfield in a wildcat role. That gives the Wildcats several options to prepare for in anticipation of Friday’s contest.
“Defensively, you have to play solid, base defense. We have to identify those packages,” said Valdez. “When they bring in a Trey Joseph, he’s not a passer. He’s a wildcat guy. He’s a jet sweep guy and they will run the power off of that.
“The other two, Bourgeois and Dumas, they are more inclined to run their (normal) offense. They are more inclined to the ball-handling and the play-action to the pro-style passing attack they have.”
Injuries have hit the Comets backfield beyond just quarterback. Joe Chiarella is out with an injury. Bruising Narquez Jones is playing with a knee brace. St. Charles still has Phillip Tran to carry the load.
“It’s no secret that St. Charles’ formula to success is the power-run game,” Valdez said. “If you can’t stop the power-run game, they won’t stop, either. They will do some things with the bells and whistles with the wildcat and the jet sweeps and try to get you outflanked and out of position by those things, but they want to run their powers and run straight at you.
“When you have that many people jockeying for position (at running back), they will give it their best because they don’t have that many opportunities. Those guys, when they get in the game, they are auditioning to get more carries. That breeds competition and you see the effort they put out.
Defensively, the Comets utilize an odd front.
“They are a 50 front defense. Some people think it’s a 3-4 but they want to stop the run,” said Valdez.
Nose guard Jordan Brown, along with defensive tackles Mason Narcisse and Rodney Blanks man the middle.
“Defensively, they are run pluggers,” Valdez said of the trio.
The defensive ends are Gavin St. Pierre and Eli Ory.
“They are a keep everything-in-front-of-them type defense,” said Valdez. “They try to keep you off of the linebackers and allow the linebackers to make plays. The defensive line does a great job of eating double teams.
“The safeties and corners react so fast. A guy like Trey Joseph at corner gives them a lot of versatility. He’s so aggressive. When you put Nash back at safety, it’s like having a coach on the field.”
In Year Two of the Valdez Era, the Wildcats are still trying to find their way against the best competition in the state, according to the coach.
“We are still trying to put ourselves in position with these programs and see if we can establish ourselves and be consistent. You have to beat a team like this. Playing a team like this really allows us to assess where our program is and be able to see what we need to do to get to that level,” Valdez said.