St. James capped off a perfect regular season with a 38-7 win at E.D. White on Friday night.
The win allowed the top-ranked Wildcats to close the season 10-0 overall while capturing the outright District 9-3A championship with a 5-0 mark.
“It’s phenomenal,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said. “We have been working so hard. I think our program is deserving. The community is so deserving. We haven’t done this in about nine, ten years, and we’re outright district champions. I’m proud of the kids.”
It was the first district title for St. James since 2010.
St. James quarterback Shamar Smith had three rushing touchdowns of a first half in which the Wildcats score on all but one possession in the opening two quarters in building a 25-0 halftime lead.
“It feels good but we expected to do that,” Smith said of winning the district championship. “We have to move on to who we play in the playoffs. We will enjoy the district win for tomorrow and celebrate and Sunday we have to get ready for our opponent.”
Postseason brackets will be announced on Sunday as St. James prepares for the Class 3A playoffs.
E.D. White, which had a chance to claim a district co-championship with a win Friday, finished the regular season 3-2 in district play and 5-5 overall. The Cardinals will participate in the select Division II playoffs.
“I heard a lot about their defense. I expected a lot from their defense. I was proud we controlled the ball a little bit. We weren’t balanced enough on offense. We didn’t throw the ball like we need to and when you are one-dimensional against those guys, they just get after you. They have great team speed and that’s not a good matchup for us,” E.D. White coach Kyle Lasseigne.
“The amount of pressure we put on them was great. You can’t run outside, you can’t run inside, you can’t throw. The only thing you can do is get lucky,” St. James defensive lineman Savion Jones said.
E.D. White won the toss and deferred to the second half.
The Wildcats promptly marched 70 yards with the opening possession. A 36-yard run by Smith and a two-point conversion gave St. James an 8-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
“We talked about coming out here and getting a quick start. We always like to set the tone on defense but they (the Cardinals) declined and that put our offense on the field. It was just (a matter) of getting the ball and trying to score early,” said Valdez.
The only time St. James failed the score in the opening half came on a missed field goal on the Wildcats’ second possession.
St. James scored on its next drive, taking advantage of a shanked punt that gave the Wildcats the ball at the E.D. White 44-yard line.
Smith capped a seven-play drive on a 4-yard run and another two-point conversion gave SJH a 16-0 lead at the 8:55 mark of the second quarter.
A 43-yard pass from Smith to Shazz Preston and face mask penalty set up a 6-yard run by Smith for a 22-0 St. James lead with 2:20 left in the second quarter.
A low snap from center from deep in E.D. White territory caused Cardinal punter Collin Gravois to get off a low kick that hit the back of an EDW lineman, giving St. James the ball at the 13-yard line.
Alec Mahler, who was inches short on a 40-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, booted a 41-yard field in the closing seconds to give St. James a 25-0 halftime lead.
“If you are going to have a chance against these guys, you can’t screw up a punt, you can’t a punt. You just can’t do those things. You have to make them drive the field and see if they will be patient on offense,” Lasseigne said.
St. James fumbled at its own 42-yard line on the Wildcats’ opening possession of the second half, opening a brief door for E.D. White but the SJH defense came through three plays later when Brad Batiste intercepted a Cailun Griggs pass in the end zone.
The only score of the third quarter came with 14 seconds left in the period on a 27-yard run by Sean Lebeouf that made the score 32-0.
After a 2-yard run by Daniel Jupiter made it 38-0, E.D. White scored on a 3-yard run by Patrick Schonacher with 2:03 left in the game to avoid the shutout.