Trailing 14-0 early in the fourth quarter, West St. John had one of those get-back-in-the-game-quick type moments.
A snap over the head of Trieten Pugmire caused the Slidell punter to have to chase down the ball at his own 20-yard line, giving a struggling Rams offense a golden opportunity.
After two plays produced a 1-yard loss, incomplete passes by West St. John quarterback Ferdinand Young into the end zone led to the Rams turning the ball over on downs.
The sequence illustrated the type day it was for West St. John in a 14-0 loss to Salmen for the Rams’ Homecoming on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s tough when we can’t get in the end zone. We definitely have to get that cleanup up,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters said.
In a mistake and penalty-marred game that has led to a 2020 trend of three-plus hour high school football games
Salmen (3-1) was penalized 18 times for 150 yards in penalties. The Spartans lost one fumble and had one interception.
West St. John (1-3) was penalized seven times for 85 yards. The Rams lost one fumble and had four interceptions.
“There were a lot of mistakes,” Walters said. “The defense did a great job. They got stops when they had to. We just put them in some bad positions. It’s hard to hold that for that long a period of time. We’ve just got to get things cleaned up.
“It was a pretty dirty game (with mistakes and penalties) by both sides, but we have to play through that.”
Salmen continually allowed West St. John to hang around and the Rams could never take advantage.
A prime example came with less than four minutes left in the third quarter.
It appeared the Spartans would have to punt from deep in their own territory, facing fourth-and-34 from their won 3-yard line.
The Rams allowed a 31-yard pass completion to Davonti Landry, who made a catch between two WSJ defenders.
Although Salmen was still forced to punt, the Rams ended up taking possession at their own 43.
“I told the coaches, ‘get ready, one of us is getting ready to score.’ I told the offensive coordinator to go for it. He dialed up a good play and the kids executed. Unfortunately, we came up short and had to punt,” Salmen coach Eric Chuter said.
Two plays later, Kaejean Kendrick fumbled after a pass reception at the Salmen 46.
On the very next play, West St. John’s Devin Hall intercepted a Jack Gillikin pass, giving the Rams the ball at the Salmen 32.
Facing fourth-and-3 from the Salmen 25, Young was sacked for a turnover on downs.
“Our defense got a shutout. That’s phenomenal. You can’t get beat if you don’t give up points. I’m happy with that. We could have won 2-0 and I’m happy,” Chuter said.
With continual stops and starts – mostly stops – because of numerous mistakes and a bevy of penalties committed by both teams, the game came down to two big plays. Both were in favor of the Spartans.
The initial score of the game came midway in the first quarter on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Gillikin to Landry at the 7:51 mark of the first quarter.
Landry was wide open in the middle of the field, hauling in Gillikin’s pass at the West St. John 40 and racing untouched to the end zone.
Salmen’s other score came with 1:11 remaining before halftime on a 25-yard toss from Gillikin to Mitchell Taylor in the left corner of the end zone.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all year long. We have to take advantage of our opportunities. We had a ton of opportunities today, and unfortunately, we only executed on two of them. I felt like we left two or three touchdowns that we didn’t put on the board,” said Chuter.
“Those guys they had those two busted plays on are freshmen,” Walters said. “We’re asking them to do a lot. We’re putting them in the fire against 5A teams that can play and they throw the ball. You will have some lapses in coverage and what we are doing mentally. That will come with the age and we are taking our lumps while we are playing.”
Following Landry’s touchdown reception, the Spartans intercepted passes by Young on West St. John’s next two possessions. The second interception came on a tip drill, with the ball hauled in by Salmen’s Bryan Bray at the Spartan 12-yard line.
Gavin Galliano blocked and recovered a West St. John punt at the Rams’ 30 at the 9:42 mark of the second quarter but Salmen ended up turning the ball over on downs.
West St. John finished with 80 yards rushing and 99 passing for 179 yards of total offense.
Starting quarterback Ferdinand Young was 6 of 23 passing for 50 yards, with three interceptions. Jaedon Butler, a freshman, entered the game on West St. John’s final drive and finished 4 of 7 passing for 49 yards and an interception.
R’Khoby Robeson had 56 yards rushing on 15 carries to pace the Rams’ ground game, while Kendrick have five catches for 46 yards.
Salmen had 100 yards rushing and 177 passing for 277 yards of total offense.
Gillikin was 8 of 22 passing for 177 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Landry had five catches for 112 yards, while Karl Owens topped the Spartans in rushing with 63 yards rushing on 19 attempts.