When the blue-and-gold clad St. Charles Catholic Comets invade Wildcat Stadium in Vacherie on Friday night, St. James coach Robert Valdez is hoping to see as sea of black-garbed fans in the stands.
“Everything right now is about stopping this wave of Comets that are coming this way and everything they bring with them. For the fans, it gives them an extra week of real good football. Friday night, it should really be rocking. We are asking everybody to ‘Black It Out,’ and wear something black and just witness two real good teams that will go separate directions. Going into the playoffs, they are going to be select and we’re going to be non-select. After we battle each other, we will wish each other the best and go from there,” Valdez said.
Both teams go into the game 6-3 on the season. The Comets, following a 14-12 win over De La Salle last week, are 4-0 in District 10-3A play. The Wildcats are 3-1 in league play – the only loss being a 21-19 defeat to De La Salle.
A win by the Comets gives St. Charles the outright district title. A win by St. James likely means a three-way tie for the top spot in the league.
“It’s exciting,” Valdez said. “Coming into the season, knowing we were going to be young, we really didn’t know what to expect. We knew we had a lot of holes we had to plug. To be in this position at this point in the year is really exciting.”
Even though extra incentives aren’t needed for Friday’s clash, there are some for the Wildcats.
“We haven’t shared or won it (a district title) since 2010, so that’s pretty good. I think with the whole select, non-select, power-point situation, district championships have kind of taken a back seat. I like to be a traditionalist. I think that still holds an importance,” said Valdez.
To achieve that goal, the Wildcats will have to contend with a stingy, top-notch St. Charles defense.
The catalyst of the group, Valdez said, is free safey Bryce Authement.
“I think he’s been there forever since I’ve been playing against him,” the St. James coach said. “Whoever wears No. 7 at St. Charles is the ‘dude.’ I think maybe that’s a tradition they don’t want to talk about.
“He definitely is a guy that plays center field very well. He will come down and hit you.”
Authement has a lot of help up front from the likes of Jordan Brown, Mason Narcisse and Eli Ory.
“The biggest thing is trying to block the defensive line. They do a great job of keeping you away from their linebackers. They do a great job of containing. They plug, they slant, they blitz. They play hard. They play good football,” Valdez said.
Offensively, the Comets are known for a strong ground game and time-consuming possessions.
Running backs Joe Chiarella and Phillip Tran have formed a solid backfield duo for a couple of years.
“He and Phillip Tran, they run the ball hard,” said Valdez.
Chiarella had a touchdown run in the Comets’ win last week over De La Salle but has been nicked up a bit. Keenan Gauff, a sophomore, picked up the slack in Chiarella’s absence.
“Those guys, they have been waiting for their opportunity,” Valdez said of Gauff. “They’ve always kept good running backs. I guess when you have big offensive linemen, it’s good.”
Playing a physical brand of football also is something the Comets are known for, said Valdez.
“The key to their success is how well they are in the trenches. They have a big offensive line and defensive line and they want to make it a physical football game,” Valdez said.
The Comets, Valdez said, also are known for waiting for an opponent to make mistakes.
“You have to play disciplined football because they will play disciplined ball. Their philosophy is to be aggressive defensively. Offensively, they are not going to make mistakes. They are going to allow you to make mistakes and beat yourself sometimes,” said Valdez.
In terms of power ratings and playoff seeding, the Wildcats currently hold the No. 5 position in Class 3A. Iota and Eunice, holding the top two spots, play each other Friday. The result of that and other games, along with a St. James win, could lift the Wildcats a spot or two going into the playoffs.
“It’s not a situation of win and we’re in,” Valdez said. “It’s a situation where a win and you put yourself in a really good situation. Lose, and you still are in a good situation because you are home but then you have to play the bracket as it goes.
“We looked at it a little bit but it doesn’t really matter. We just want to get into the dance.”