Maybe Jonathan Wilson’s grandfather halted the rain.
It rained much of the day on both sides of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish on Friday. There was a light rain right before kickoff between Wilson’s St. James Wildcats and the host Lutcher Bulldogs.
Right as the game began, the rain basically stopped and although cloudy, the precipitation held off during the contest.
It was Wilson who rained on the Bulldogs’ parade.
Lutcher was clinging to a 14-10 lead in the big rivalry contest when the senior receiver hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone from St. James quarterback Marquell Bergeron with 1:58 left in the game to pull out a 17-14 win for the Wildcats.
“It was for my Grandpa, and I’m glad to make him proud. He taught me when I was younger and he raised me as a kid. This is for him. All I do is for him,” said Wilson, whose grandfather died last March.
Wilson’s touchdown reception a 4-0 record for the Wildcats’ senior class against their across-the-river rival.
“It’s great to beat our rival team. Last year, I didn’t play because I had an ACL (injury),” Wilson said.
St. James defensive end Sai’Vion Jones, an LSU commitment, another of the seniors never to taste defeat against Lutcher, played an instrument role for the Wildcats down the stretch against the Bulldogs.
After Wilson’s touchdown gave St. James the lead, the Bulldogs took possession with 1:58 left I the game and only one timeout remaining.
A 35-yard pass from Lutcher quarterback D’Wayne Winfield to receiver Noah Detillier on first down got the Bulldogs moving.
On back-to-back plays, Jones made his way into the Lutcher backfield, dropping a pair of Bulldog runners for no gain.
“Coming through in critical moments, my teammates depend on me, and that fuels me and keeps me going,” said Jones.
“Big-time players have got to make big-time plays. He’s our guy. He showed everybody why he’s one of the top recruits in the country. They were keying on him. They were trying to go away from him. They were trying to double him. When it came time to make plays, he was Johnny on the spot,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
Lutcher eventually reached the St. James 21-yard line with seven seconds left in the game.
Detillier, also the Bulldogs’ kick and punter, entered the game to attempt a 38-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
The Wildcats called all three of their timeouts to deep freeze Detillier.
Detillier’s kick was wide left, giving Wilson, Jones, and the other St. James seniors, their 4-0 career mark against their rival.
“Four years in a row. Four years and they never beat me,” said Jones.
With St. James holding three timeouts in the closing seconds, Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said he wasn’t surprised the Wildcats used all of them before the field goal.
“I guess in that situation, you can probably play it either way,” Jenkins said. “With the time running, you could have made us rush out there and try to kick it and maybe that would play on your favor. Then the three timeouts, you see it all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It worked tonight. Good for them.
“If I get in that position 100 more times, I’m sending Noah Detillier out there 100 more times to kick that ball. He’s such a confident athlete and we would him in that situation right now if I had to do it again.”
Meanwhile, St. James junior receiver Shazz Preston is now 3-0 against Lutcher.
“They had been talking all week and even before the season started. We just had to show them today,” said Preston.
On the game-winning drive for St. James, the Wildcats marched 95 yards.
As was the pattern for both teams throughout the game, the Wildcats moved mostly on the ground. When he was needed most, Preston came up with a pair of third-down conversion receptions to keep the drive alive.
“You have to take advantage of opportunities, and that’s what I did,” Preston said.
Most of St. James plays on the drive, both running and passing were to the right on the side of the Wildcats’ bench.
Facing third-and-1 from the 12-yard line, Bergeron spotted Wilson in the left corner of the end zone for the game-winning score.
“Just get it to my playmakers and let them do their thing. Let my playmakers do their thing. That’s all we do,” said Bergeron.
A fumble by Kaden Williams after a pass reception three plays into the second half gave Lutcher the ball at the St. James 43.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Winfield leaped over the top over a wall of offensive and defensive linemen for a touchdown that gave Lutcher it’s first lead of 14-10 at the 4:15 mark of the third quarter.
Lost in the rivalry game was the fact the game was the District 9-3A opener. St. James improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in district, while Lutcher fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in district.
“This is never an easy place to come and get a win. Their kids play with a lot of pride. It’s a rivalry like it’s supposed to be. To be able to be clutch down the stretch and to make those plays, that’s key. That’s the kind of things you build on. Thank God we got the win, and now we can build on that confidence and we know what we can do with adversity,” Valdez said.
The game was close at the end because Lutcher dodged a couple of early bullets, allowing the Bulldogs to trail only 10-7 at halftime.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over only two plays into the game when a pass by Winfield was tipped and intercepted by Jones at the Lutcher 20.
St. James, wearing all-white uniforms for the first time, appeared to score one play later on a keeper by Kaden Williams, who opened at quarterback for the Wildcats as Bergeron sat out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons. But the play was called back because of a Wildcat penalty.
The Bulldogs held and normally reliable St. James kicker Alec Mahler missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Lutcher averted disaster on its next possession when Detillier, also the Bulldogs’ punter, raced back to retrieve a high snap deep in his end zone and managed to get off a kick to the LHS 47.
Another apparent touchdown run by Williams was nullified by a St. James penalty, but this time Mahler came through was a 35-yard field goal to make it 3-0 at the 3:56 mark of the first quarter.
“We made the critical mistake early-on, but our defense was able to come up with a stop. It was two short drives that they got, and we held them to just three points. I think we are fortunate I that respect,” Jenkins said.
St. James drove 72 yards on its next possession, with Kaleb Brown capping the drive with a 4-yard run. Brown fumbled o the play but was ruled by the officials to have crossed the plain of the goal line, giving the Wildcats a 10-0 lead with 6:25 remaining in the first half.
Lutcher answered on its next possession. A 19-yard run by Ra’saun Storks helped to set up the running back’s 37-yard touchdown run to make it 10-7 with 1:18 left in the first half.
Storks led all rushers in the game with 145 yards on 21 carries, while Williams topped St. James with 75 yards on 16 attempts.
Like his seniors, Valdez had a nice streak going against Lutcher.
“You have got to beat your rivals. You have to keep your fans happy. They like it when you are winning. They will like me for another week,” Valdez laughed.