By Shawn C. White
SPRINGHILL, La. – They St. James Wildcats are headed for a long trip home following a 26-23 loss to North Webster on Friday night at Baucum-Farrar Stadium that knocked them out of the Class 3A playoffs in the second round.
“Hats off to North Webster. They came out with a lot of energy,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said. “It just didn’t seem like that we couldn’t gain the momentum. We made some good plays and then make some mistakes.
“They played with a lot of effort. They played with a lot of emotion. I think we did a good job in a lot of areas. We just didn’t make enough plays. In the playoffs and you’re on the road, you have to make enough plays to eliminate the noise and all that. They made the plays when they had to.”
North Webster Coach John Ware said they were the unexpected team.
“What a night,” North Webster coach John Ware said. “Nobody picked us to be here and that make it even sweeter. On top of everything else, our kids played their butts off tonight. They were not going to be denied.
“What I have been proud of about this team all year long is that we’ve had adversity and we keep fighting what through it. We didn’t hang our heads when a little bit of bad stuff happened. We hung in there. We made some plays and got some key first downs at the end of the game that were big. That’s what championship teams do.”
North Webster’s Scottie Johnson threaded three touchdowns to collapse the hopes of St. James. Eddie Rollen added a touchdown for the Knights.
Lorenzo Johnson led the Knight with 102 yards total offense.
Shamar Smith had a hand in all three of St. James’ scores as he rushed for two touchdowns and passed for one to Shazz Preston.
Smith passed 146 yards as Preston was his main target for 65 yards. Sean Lebeouf led the ground attack with 50 yards.
St. James struggled offensively in the first quarter as the Wildcats failed to get a first down and only had five yards offense.
The Wildcats attempted a field goal but a botched snap gave the Knights back the ball.
The Knights put the first points on the board with a 23-yard touchdown run by Eddie Rollen.
St. James wasn’t going to allow them to hold on to the momentum as A’rum Joseph intercepted a pass deep in the Knights territory as St. James took possession at the 5 yard line.
A sack by Tyreke Williams forced an attempt at field goal that turned into a botched snap and turnover to North Webster.
The Wildcats tied the game early in the second quarter and seemed to gain momentum. St. James stopped North Webster in the red zone to save another score and take over on downs. The momentum was slow to continue as the Wildcats once again gave North Webster a deep-territory possession on the 14-yard line.
Johnson took advantage as he rammed into the end zone to give the Knights the 13-7 lead going into halftime.
A new half started better for the Wildcats.
Smith began with a 20-yard run to midfield. He then gained a second first down with a 10-yard pass to Logan Gravois to continue the drive for the Wildcats.
Smith tossed a 40-yard bomb to Preston to rally the Wildcats to within 14-13.
The Wildcats went for the extra point but a bad snap resulted in Gravois running into the end zone to give St. James its first lead 15-13.
North Webster went on a grinding, 15-play drive down to the 1-yard line. St. James held Johnson on a fourth down as he slipped on the mud pit of a field to maintain the lead going into the fourth quarter.
North Webster started the fourth quarter deep in the Wildcats’ red zone. Tyrell Markray connected with Johnson for an 11-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to give the Knights back the led.
Turnovers then struck again for the Wildcats.
North Webster took advantage as Markray hit Johnson for a 21-yard touchdown and looked to have the game locked in for North Webster at 26-15 with about seven minutes remaining.
St. James, however, struck fast with a three-play, 65-yard drive that took 30 seconds. Smith finished off the drive with a 10 yard run to close the gap to 26-23.
Chase Geason gave the Wildcats one more chance as he recovered a bad snap on the North Webster 36-yard line.
Smith moved St. James down to the 12-yard line and was stopped on a fourth-and-13 with two minutes remaining as North Webster ran the clock out on the Wildcats’ season.