Since West St. John’s return to Class 1A, the Rams have yet to lose a game in District 8-1A.
After sweeping all four district games a year ago, the Rams have added two more league victories, including last week’s 44-18 win over Covenant Christian.
In those six district games, the Rams have outscored their opponents 303-25. West St. John’s win over Covenant Christian represented the tightest game the Rams have endured in district play.
“Covenant Christian really came out and played us,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters. “We had some expectations that they had gotten a lot better. A matter of fact, everyone in the district has gotten better. Each week is a new set of challenges.
“We started off going blow-for-blow with them and we kind of pulled away from them in the second quarter. But even after that, they got a couple of scores in the second half and they tested our kids.”
The Rams’ running game continued to dominate as Kylan Duhe, the leading rushing in the River Parishes, totaled more than 150 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Niko Roy also topped the 100-yard mark while adding two scores.
“Niko and Duhe still had a good night rushing the ball. Wantrell Willams was able to get in the fold a little bit. We’ve kind of been waiting for him to get a bit healthier and get him involved in the run game,” Walters said.
West St. John visits a Varnado team that is coming off its first win of the season, a 59-0 blanking of St. Martin’s Episcopal. The Wildcats may be playing their best football of the season. Varnado trailed Covenant Christian by 21 points before rallying to take a three-point lead but ultimately lost 39-30.
“They went toe-to-toe with Covenant Christian. They also have a running back-quarterback tandem back there. They have made some big improvements in personnel,” Walters said.
The running back of the tandem is fullback Jaylen Peters.
“They use him just like we do with Niko. Houma Christian and Covenant Christian, they all have a good back and quarterback and they flip-flop them and play them at (middle) linebacker. Varnado is no different,” said Walters.
The Varnado quarterback is Kim McGowan.
“He can really take off,” Walters noted.
Along with Peters, another running threat for the Wildcats is Korterrius Mingo.
“They line him up really deep, like 10 yards from the ball and give him a running start. He’s already full go by the time he gets to the line of scrimmage. That’s very effective in what they are doing,” explained Walters.
The Wildcats are a spread team, although they like to run out of the I-formation.
“They give you a little wing sent and stuff like that. They pound the ball. They run the ball and the quarterback can get the ball to those receivers pretty good. Allen Caleb is their main guy. He can catch it and go up and get it. They isolate him a lot,” said Walters.
Joining Caleb at receiver is Zantonio Peters.
The Wildcats utilize several different formations on defense.
“Defensively, they run a 3-4 and play coverage behind it. They play a lot of man (coverage). They also will jump into a 4-2-5 look against certain formations,” said Walters.
A big guy up front for Varnado is 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive lineman Brandon Lee.
“He was there last year. He’s a big boy. He occupies a lot of space and sometimes he demands a double-team. We have to get him blocked and accounted for,” Walters said.
Like Jaylen Peters, many of the key players on offense also play on defense for the Wildcats.
“We are at that time of year. We are going to get everybody’s best. It’s just about who’s will and who wants it more and who is willing to fight for it and pay for it,” Walters said.
While the Rams own the title of defending state champion and have been on a roll against Class 1A opponents this season, many observers overlook the fact West St. John is a young football team with only seven seniors.
“It’s definitely a challenge to get these young guys to play like upperclassmen,” Walters said. “That’s where we are right now. We have a really young team but we are asking them to do some big things and kind of duplicate what we did last year. It’s a tough go at it. I think we are ready. The kids are prepared. It’s just a fight every week. It’s coaching. It’s high school football and that’s why we do it.”