When St. James had to settle for a field goal on its opening possession of the second half and with the way the Wildcats’ defense played throughout the game, the 16-point margin looked like more than enough to give SJH a win over visiting Donaldsonville.
That proved to be the case as the Wildcats went on to take a 22-0 win in the District 10-3A opener on Friday night in Vacherie.
“This is a very, very tough district. Being 1-0 gives us a chance to start off on the right foot. We are just excited and want to keep working and improving,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
Kaleb Brown’s 25-yard interception return for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game staked St. James to a quick 6-0 lead and set the tone for the Wildcats’ defense.
“I saw it was a low ball so I tried to get my hand in and I tipped it up and scored,” Brown said.
“Our defense did an outstanding job,” Valdez said. “I think they (the Tigers) have a lot of athletes and have a pretty good scheme. My hat’s off to my coaches and the defensive effort tonight. You are going to have those nights. Some nights you will have to come out and the defense will have to carry you and I think they did a good job of that.
“I think we played a little sloppy and a little ugly on offense but we made enough plays. It’s good to win ugly, and we did.”
Donaldsonville’s biggest threat to break up the shutout came in the closing moments of the game. The Tigers (3-3 overall, 0-1 in district) had first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. By the time the Wildcats’ defense was done, Donaldsonville was forced to turn the ball over on downs from the 8-yard line as St. James preserved the shutout.
“We had a good practice all week and we came out and played hard. We always say, ‘play fast, play physical.’ That’s what we did,” Brown said.
“Being able to get those stops down the stretch was big. After six weeks, I’m excited to be 4-2 and we have to keep moving and keep improving and these young ’Cats just have to keep getting better,” said Valdez.
After Brown’s interception, the Wildcats moved 99 yards for their next score.
A punt pinned the Wildcats inside their own 1-yard line late in the opening quarter. Runs of 6 and 2 yards by St. James quarterback Shamar Smith and defensive holding penalty against Donaldsonville got the Wildcats out of a hole and a first down at the SJH 32.
The Wildcats capped an 11-play drive on a 4-yard pass from Smith to Tyshone Williams to give St. James a 13-0 lead at the 10:53 mark of the second quarter.
The 13-0 lead held up through halftime and the Wildcats were on the march with the opening possession of the second half. It was a that point that St. James settled on a 34-yard Alec Mahler field goal and it’s 16-0 lead.
“We needed to score on that first drive,” Valdez said. “It really could have put us in a bad situation because we felt (the Tigers) didn’t have any rhythm offensively so if we would get a two-touchdown lead they would have to start reaching and all that. At least getting the field goal in that situation was very, very good for us.”
The only other score in the game came when freshman Shazz Preston hauled in a pass from Smith and raced along the sideline in front of the Donaldsonville bench for a 66-yard touchdown five seconds into the fourth quarter.
“It was a great experience. I just enjoyed the moment,” said Preston, the younger brother of Shawn Preston, a former Wildcat who is now at Mississippi State.