As the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A playoffs, the West St. John Rams earned the opportunity to able to sit back last week and wait to see who they might face in Friday night’s second-round matchup in Edgard but instead took a more proactive approach.
“We took two of the days off to kind or rest and heal up a little bit. We had a good week of practice even though we took those two days off,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters said. “We approached it the same way as just getting ready for the game in the sense that we took a guess as to who we might be playing and we kind of worked toward that particular team as far as preparation. Fortunately, we picked correctly and we end up playing East Iberville.
“Preparation-wise, we approached it the same we do each week. We just got out there and got after it. We kind of lightened it up as far as contact with it being late in the season and we have a lot of bumps and bruises. We scaled back with the hitting and did more teaching and work from the neck up.”
The flipside of a bye week is that while West St. John was able to rest up, the East Iberville Tigers were able to get any opening-game playoff jitters out of their system. First-game jitters, however, should not be a factor for many of the Rams, according to Walters.
“Our guys are pretty pumped about being in the playoffs and having an opportunity to have a chance to do something really special,” the West St. John coach said. “The guys are really locked in and ready to play.
“I’m sure some of our younger guys who haven’t had the (playoff) experience yet, may have a few butterflies but they will be able to iron them out this week against East Iberville. I think once we start playing and helmets start colliding and people start banging into each other and stuff like that, it all will go away.”
East Iberville, the No. 16 seed, advanced to the second round by defeating the Delhi, the No. 17 seed, 46-38 last week. Although East Iberville and West St. John have not played in the last two years, the schools are familiar with one another since they used to be in the same district.
“We had a chance to go out and see them last Friday and kind of get an eyeball on them. We have a pretty good idea of who they are. The two schools are pretty familiar with each other. We play each other in basketball and stuff like that so the kids are familiar with each other even though we haven’t played in two years,” Walters said.
Ron Lejeune, who coached East Iberville from 1997-99, returned this year for his second stint as coach of the Tiger. He inherited a team that was 1-9 a year ago and led them to a 5-5 finish in the 2017 regular season.
“Definitely, Coach Lejeune has turned that program around and has them on the right track. I’m sure the team is pretty stoked to play. The fans in the stands were giving us an earful when we went to watch them. It should be exciting,” Walters said.
Offensively, the Tigers run the Wing-T out of a pistol formation.
“Their quarterback, Lyndell Joseph, is very athletic. He likes to keep the ball and run with it but they have two quality guys in the backfield and outside receiver in Blake Barbay. Junior Williams is a wingback and Rondell Wilson is pretty shifty, also. They have a pretty big guy at fullback, Derrick Wilson, the give it to. They run that traditional Wing-T and trap inside and outside,” Walters said.
Defensively, the Tigers are in a traditional 3-4 alignment.
“They show some different looks depending on what you give them. Formation-wise, they will make some adjustments and move some guys around here and there. They basically like to crowd the line of scrimmage and blitz you a good bit,” Walters explained.
Many of the offensive starters also play on defense, with a couple of standouts roaming the secondary.
“We like the activity of the safety, Michael Triplett, brings. He’s very active. Blake Barbay is also a good guy that plays well for them defensively. He plays pretty fast and gets after it defensively,” Walters said.
As well as being well-rested, the Rams also are focused and on a mission heading into the playoffs, according to Walters.
I think West St. John should do well this Friday and continue to have the success we’ve been having. We will just go out there play our style of football, play physical and attack and hope for the best and look forward to a positive outcome,” the West St. John coach said.