Like many teams to start a season that featured no scrimmages or jamborees, the West St. John Rams have had their share of problems with mistakes.
A total of five lost fumbles was simply too much for the Rams (1-1) to overcome in their 42-21 loss to Plaquemine last week.
“Between the fumbles and the penalties, they are killing us. It was a problem the week before last, but we were able to get things done in spite of that. Last game, in the rain, with the fumbles and the penalties for over 100 yards, that’s a recipe for disaster. We can’t expect to beat anybody making the mistakes we made and putting the ball on the ground that many times,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters said.
Between the coronavirus and hurricanes, schedules are always in flux. Having played two games over the course of six days to open the season, there has been little time to work on problems.
With West St. John’s game against McDonogh 35 scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie, the Rams have an extra day to prepare.
“You have to prepare on the fly. This season, I don’t foresee anything that’s more crazy that you can throw at us that would upset me or shock me. You just have to roll with it and continue to get the guys prepared for it. Of course, they are young and don’t really grasp the total piece of it, but we have to get the guys ready. We can’t look back on the little things that are killing us, although we need to correct them, we can’t dwell on them,” said Walters.
In last year’s game against the Roneagles, West St. John came up with a late touchdown to pull to within two points. After a penalty on the two-point conversion, another try resulted in an incomplete pass, handing the Rams a 38-36 loss.
“We definitely felt we should have won that one,” Walters said. “We felt we had it taken from us. Kids are kids. Sometimes they put stuff behind them far more than we do, the taste of that loss. I’m sure they will bring it up during the week and it will come back to us and probably be a bit of our motivation to get it right this time.”
The coronavirus pandemic has affected the entire world. Perhaps at no place did COVID-19 hit closer to home than McDonogh 35.
McDonogh 35’s longtime coach, Wayne Reese Sr., a legendary coach in the New Orleans area and throughout the state, died in the offseason due to coronavirus.
“He was the epitome of a high school football coach who kids looked up to as somewhat of a father figure,” said Walters. “He was a very stern, disciplined guy. He brought so much to the game as far as his skill set. There is just so much wisdom that a guy like that can impart to you, just being around him and having a general conversation, and not even be about football. He is a big loss for the school and the institution that’s there.”
The Roneagles (1-1) are trying to move on with Frank Daggs as head coach. He was a longtime assistant to Reese.
“Coach Daggs is there and he’s been there a while right there with Coach Reese. I’m sure many of the things that were in place will continue to go on with him and I’m sure he will put his stamp on things,” said Walters.
Under Daggs, the Roneagles are a bit more wide open with their spread offense, according to Walters.
“They are more of a spread team. They used to dabble with it over the years. Now, it seems to be a lot more spread,” Walters explained. “I think they are coaching more to the skill set of the athletes they have available right now.
“They have always been big in the trenches on the offensive line and defensive line, so they are still able to run the ball. That’s what they try to pound it at you but from a spread look.”
At quarterback for McDonogh 35 is Rashad Bester.
“He likes to take off with it and run. That’s his forte,” Walters said. “We have to get him corralled and know where he is and make sure we have him accounted for as well as the running back, Jamarian Henderson. He’s their Swiss Army knife.”
Along with playing at running back, Henderson also is a kickoff and punter returner. He also plays some at safety.
Another runner, Dwayne Dales, rushed for 79 yards a week ago in McDonogh 35’s 23-21 win over Carver.
One of the top receiving targets is Robert Parker, who had four catches for 99 yards against Carver.
“Robert Parker is a guy they really like to get the ball to. He’s a really tall receiver. He seems to be one of their go-to guys,” Walters said.
Also at receiver is Demond Harris.
“They are a zone-read team. RPO (run-pass option) a lot and spread the ball around and try to throw it around and get it to their athletes in space,” said Walters.
The Roneagles feature a four-man front on defense.
“They play with a two-high look and they mix it up between zone and man from that particular look. From what we’ve seen, they stay in that look pretty much,” Walters noted.
One of McDonogh 35’s top defenders is defensive end Tariq Jones.
“He plays pretty well coming off the edge. You have to account for him, and we have to make sure we get him blocked,” said Walters.
David Ellis is a key member of the linebacker corps, while Henderson provides leadership to a young secondary.
Walters said he likes the Rams’ chances against McDonogh 35.
“I think we match up well with them in positions,” the West St. John coach said. “Of course, we are young in certain spots, and so are they. I think where we’re good at matches well with what they do well, so it should be a good battle. Our strong suit is our defense, and we have to get stops. We did a good job initially against Plaquemine, but we have to be able to fight to the end. We had a couple of guys that got dinged up for us and had to sit. We weren’t going with all of our pieces.
“I think this week we will have everybody back healthy. When we are at our best, I think we can play with anybody.”A