It turns out the road to the Superdome really does pass through Edgard.
By earning the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A playoffs, West St. John was at home for the quarterfinals and is now a win away from reaching the state championship game when the Rams host Logansport on Friday night.
“We can say that and mean it now. We’ve talked about it for awhile and it’s exciting to be able to actually to say that and it’s true. The semifinals are here and if you want to make the next step, you have to play your best game now,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters said.
After defeating Jonesboro-Hodge 26-6 last week, the Rams face the tough task of trying to knock off a Logansport team that is the defending Class 1A champion, is unbeaten at 13-0 and riding a 27-game winning streak.
Logansport’s numbers don’t seem to scare Walters and his Rams.
“It sounds good. That’s the kind we like; those meaningful ones. With stakes on the line, our kids always come to play. In bright lights, they shine with them,” said Walters.
The West St. John coach even borrowed a line from a famous professional wresting when talking about facing the Tigers.
“I told the kids ‘if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.’ That’s an old Ric Flair line,” Walters said.
Despite being the defending champs and unbeaten, Logansport garnered only the No. 5 seed in the playoffs.
“Earlier in the year, I said I wouldn’t have been surprised if they (Logansport) got the No. 1 ranking because they were undefeated,” said Walters. “If I were sitting there undefeated and the defending champion, I would expect to be the No. 1 team.”
West St. John’s non-district schedule, Walters said, helped the Rams capture the top seed.
“We play some pretty tough teams. We scheduled like we normally do, playing big 5A and 4A teams and play out our class to get (power) points from playing those teams. Those teams, we are not scheduling them just for points, we are scheduling because we want to be them and we feel that we can. It has worked out in our favor,” said the West St. John coach.
Logansport advanced to the semifinals with a 40-18 victory over Varnado. A District 8-1A foe, Varnado was defeated by West St. John 45-0 during the regular season.
In the victory over Varnado, Tigers quarterback Dalton Shaw passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a quick passer. He gets the ball out of his hands real quick,” Walters said of Shaw.
One of Shaw’s favorite targets, John Stephens Jr., a TCU commitment, had 114 reception yards a week ago.
“They throw a lot of jump balls to him. They isolate him from the rest of the formation and get it in his hands as well,” Walters said of the 6-foot-5, 215-pound receiver.
Shaw has another big target in 6-foot-2 Patrick Mims. Mims had 155 reception yards against Varnado.
“He’s a speedy guy and a real good-looking kid. He has good size and great speed. If you don’t cover him, he will walk away from you. He had great hands. They like to get him the ball in space,” Walters said.
Madrid Johnson is used primarily as a slot receiver while getting most of the carries is Tresmin Brown.
“He runs really hard. He’s a tough kid. You really have to come up and tackle him and wrap up,” Walters said of Brown.
The Tigers operate out of a 53 defense.
“They run a 53 with three linebackers in the box and two standing on the edge and three down linemen. Some people call in a Bear, others call it an Oklahoma. They spread those two outside tackles out and move them out a little further to the edge but it’s still a 53 front,” said Walters.
A key defender is middle linebacker Cartrez Brooks, who also plays some at fullback on offense.
“He plays mike linebacker and flows to the ball real well,” said Walters.
The Tigers feature a large line on both sides of the ball, Walters said.
West St. John advanced past Jonesboro-Hodge despite a mistake-filled game. That is something the Rams came ill afford against the defending champs, said Walters.
“We had four turnovers last week and the defense managed to still hold the wall,” the West St. John coach said. “We can’t have those mistakes this week. We were fortunate not to let those turnovers hurt us and we were able to force turnovers ourselves.
“If we can play mistake-free football and capitalize when we get our hands on the ball, it should be a great game. I believe we can win, as always. If we come to play the way we play, the pressure is on them.”