West St. John coach Brandon Walters is still feeling the frustration of last week’s narrow 15-14 loss to Riverside Academy.
Playing their first game in three weeks after an originally-scheduled open date and a cancelled game with Country Day because of hurricane and coronavirus issues at the Metairie school, the Rams went into the game seeking only their second win of the season.
Among the issues Walters had with the game was a controversial out-of-bounds call on a catch by Jaydon Hamilton along the Riverside sideline on West St. John’s final drive, a penalty call that wiped out a touchdown on the drive, and issues with the play clock.
“It was pretty tough. Those are the (games) that you look up a little bit and you feel a little less hair,” said Walters.
The result left the Rams 1-4 overall and 0-1 in District 9-1A play heading into Friday night’s game at Edgard against St. Martin’s. The Saints are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in league play.
The Saints didn’t play last week because of COVID-19 issues against schedule opponent Ecole Classique.
Although St. Martin’s didn’t play a week ago, the Rams have had a chance to study the Saints.
“Because we had to flop film with Riverside and Country Day, we were able to see them,” said Walters. “They run the ball extremely well. They did it to Riverside. Against Country Day, they ran the ball pretty well on them.”
The Saints have a lot of beef in the offensive backfield.
The main ball carrier is 208-pound Monte Lewis. Jonathan Castaneda is 240 pounds and Grant Gendusa is 230 pounds.
“That’s a modest 208,” Walters chuckled. “I’ve seen him in person.”
All three also start on defense.
Castaneda plays the sniffer role on offense, a hybrid fullback-tight end position in which he does a lot of blocking.
“They are a big power-I, two-back personnel. They do a really good job of pushing the line of scrimmage and moving guys up front. They pound it and pound it and they will play-action to you and Castaneda will get out there in open space. He can catch it,” Walters explained.
The quarterback is sophomore Matt Mannino.
“He does a good job operating the offense,” said Walters. “You can see them growing each year, each time we’ve played them. They are getting better and better. On film this year, you can see marked improvements with what they are doing.”
The game, Walters said, should proved interesting action at the line of scrimmage.
“I’m a trenches guy, so I love to see them pound the ball that way. We will have our hands full up front in the trenches,” the West St. John coach said.
The Saints are based out of a 4-2-5 defensive alignment.
“They try to keep two guys up high to defend. They mix that up a little bit. Sometimes they send some pressure with the linebackers,” said Walters.
Lewis plays linebacker on defense. Castaneda and Gendusa are on the defensive line. Many of the St. Martin’s receivers play in the secondary.
“They have some guys going both ways as well. Most of their playmakers, you will see them on the defensive side of the ball,” said Walters.
The Rams’ 1-4 record is a byproduct of their normally tough early-season schedule against teams from much higher classifications. In past years, the records were never a problem since the Rams were accustomed to that sort of slate but knowing what lied ahead once they started playing 1A competition.
The shortened schedule of 2020 has taken some of that away.
“We will be fine. We just have to continue to work at it and grind and keep the kids focused and not listen to the outside chatter and people that are not really with you but pretend to be. We try to get the kids to ignore that stuff. We know what we are capable of doing,” said Walters.
The Rams are sitting at No. 5 in the unofficial Class 1A power rankings, meaning West St. John may receive an opening-round bye in the playoffs – a testament to the Rams’ tough schedule.
“I’m sure there are some people saying, ‘how can they be a ranked team with one win,” said Walters. “I get aspect of it, also. For us, we are just trying to get in. If we get in, we will see what happens.
“We’ve played with the No. 1 ranking last year and a couple of years before. That’s exciting, but it’s about being No. 1 when it’s over that matters the most.”