It was the Bulldogs’ turn! WCHS 49, SJHS 24

Tryve Brackin
WCHS’ BIG PLAY…Handing the ball off to number 22 was a big play most of the night for White Castle High last week as Tyree Bracken (22) rushed for 277 yards and four TDs in a 49-24 rout of parish/district rival St. John. Ronald Martin (1) gives the ball off to Bracken as SJHS’ Jared Naquin (11) and Connor Case (7) brace for a tackle. WC’s Dedrick Gore (52) is ready to block.

A year ago it was state semifinalist St. John High that pulled the plug in the second half for 28 unanswered points and a key parish and District 8-A football victory. Friday night in White Castle it was the hosting Bulldogs’ turn.

WCHS rallied for 23 unanswered second-half points to turn a narrow 26-24 lead into a 49-24 rout in a league opener for the two Iberville ball clubs.

The Bulldog victory ended a string of six-straight district losses to St. John over an eight-year period and boosted the Castlemen to a 3-3 record and an early 1-0 showing in 8-A district grid competition. With league foes like Ascension CHS (1-5), Christian Life (0-6), and East Iberville (0-6) all rebuilding this season, the victory more than likely put the White Castle boys in no worse than a possible three-way eventual first-place tie with West St. John (2-4) and St. John (2-4). White Castle goes to West St. John (1-0 in district) in two weeks, while St. John hosts West St. John on the final regular/district playing date in Plaquemine. Meanwhile, the victory over SJHS boosted the Bulldogs into the top ten in Class 1-A and well ahead of both WSJHS and St. John in the state polls, making them the favorite in the 8-A until otherwise.

In post-game comments WCHS Coach Ferrante Dominique continued to remark that he and his football team felt they should have beaten St. John last season in Plaquemine. However, the 28-13 comeback win by the Eagles proves otherwise. Friday night down in White Castle there was no doubt who fielded the better team. St. John fans may remark about the injury loss of four key seniors and two juniors, plus the fact senior quarterback Kade Yarbrough had to exit the game twice Friday night with injuries, was a factor in the Bulldog victory, but that has about as much merit as Dominique’s longing for victory after defeat in 2009. Ah! Neighboring rivalry!

White Castle’s speed and overall athleticism came to account last week despite a prideful and gritty performance of the visiting Eagles, who continue to fight adversity with hard-nose efforts.

White Castle exploded on offense, led by the duo of junior RB Tyree Bracken (a former St. John schooler) and senior QB Ronald Martin. Defensively, the Bulldogs rose up and shutdown the Eagle attack in the second half and used a trio of interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, to add to the offensive showcase.

SJHS Coach Barry “Tut” Musemeche called the Bulldogs “talented” and he was right. And yet the Eagles never gave up and certainly gave the Bulldogs as much first-half grief as they suffered the year before in Plaquemine when WCHS held a 13-0 halftime lead. St. John almost answered WCHS point for point over the first two periods with junior RB Da’vante Williams (a relative of Dominique’s), Yarbrough, White Castle resident and son of former Bulldog great Kenneth Yarbrough, and WC resident Kaleb Campesi tallying early touchdowns.

FIRST HALF:

St. John scored first to take a 7-0 lead as the Eagle offense converted quickly after the Bulldogs attempted an onsides kick to give them possession at midfield. It was Coach Musemeche’s intentions to run a controlled offense to keep the ball out of the hands of the dangerous WCHS offense. It worked well as the Eagles ended up with 40 offensive plays in the first half and drives for three touchdowns.

The first Eagle score came as Yarbrough and Williams chewed up key rushing yardage to get the ball down inside the Red Zone. Williams capped the drive with an 18-yard run right up the middle of the Bulldog defense and Connor Case added a PAT.

It was well enough that St. John scored first because Bracken was ready to put on a showcase of long runs for the night. On the first play from scrimmage the talented junior zigzagged through would-be tacklers and went 65 yards for a quick-striking touchdown. WCHS missed a PAT attempt, but cut the SJHS lead to 7-6.

St. John fumbled away possession on the ensuing kickoff, but the Bulldogs gave it right back on a fumble. The Eagles could not move the ball and punted it back to the Bulldogs, who struck again. A couple of runs by Bracken got the Castlemen close, but Williams broke up a pass to the end zone to delay a WCHS scoring attempt. The Bulldogs went back to the run and right back to Bracken. He broke free around the left side and romped 37 yards to the end zone for his second score. WCHS moved ahead 12-7.

Another onsides kickoff by WCHS gave the Eagles another short field to go and St. John took advantage. Campesi, Williams, and Yarbrough battered the Bulldog defense on a series of rushing gains. Early in the second period Yarbrough capped the drive with a one-yard plunge. Case converted on the PAT and SJHS had its second lead of the ball game, 14-12. It would not last long and would never return.

Bracken took a handoff at the WCHS 20 on the first play from scrimmage after a touchback and he was off to the races, going 80 long yards for his third touchdown of the first half. Bracken had 182 yards just into the early second quarter on a trio of long TD runs. WCHS was up for good by an 18-14 count.

The Eagles moved the ball for a first down with Williams’ nine-yard gainer sparking the offense. But, instead of continuing to run the ball the Eagles went to the air. Yarbrough attempted a pass to the flats and speedy junior cornerback Shaquille Armstead made a leaping interception and then outran pursue for a 27-yard return touchdown. Isaac O’Bear moved to quarterback for the Bulldogs and tossed a two-point conversion pass to a wide open Martin and the hosts were up 26-14.

Da’vante Williams, the Eagles’ offensive leader this season, showed his speed and determination on the ensuing kickoff as he followed blockers to the outside and returned the pigskin all the way down to the WCHS 20. From there he picked up a key first down on a run. Then Campesi got the call to add to the long list of White Castle residents who scored TDs on the night as he went the final five yards to close the gap. Case hit his third PAT and WCHS’ lead was down to 26-21.

The Eagle defense stopped WCHS in its tracks on the next series and the Eagles got the ball back. Forced to a fourth and nine situation, it was Williams again who came up with the big Eagle offensive play as he carried the ball for a first down. That led to a 33-yrd field goal by Case and the half ended with St. John down by only two, 26-24. It proved to be a better first-half effort than the year before when the top-ranked Eagles were down 13-0.

SECOND HALF:

The second half, however, belonged to the explosive Bulldogs. A pass interception by Terrance Taylor early in the third period led to WCHS touchdown. Bracken tallied his fourth TD of the game on an eight-yard run following the pickoff by Taylor. A short run by Martin for a two-point conversion gave the Bulldogs a 34-24 cushion.

After the Castlemen got the ball back, the SJHS defense keyed heavily to stop Bracken. Martin saw his chance and began to fake and keep the ball for the Bulldog offense. It worked for a pair of first-down runs and then Martin found himself in open field around the left side. He went 44 yards for his first TD of the night. Martin added to the points by firing a two-point pass to Quincy Jones, who stepped a couple of yards in front of Armstead in the end zone for the catch. Armstead protested to Jones that the throw was meant for him and you knew at that point the Bulldogs were in a joy zone, ahead by a 42-24 count.

Early in the final stanza, O’Bear came up with another interception. On the first play from scrimmage, Martin was again off to the races. The LSU commitment went around end and found open sailing and 89-yards down the field found paydirt for the second time. O’Bear hit the PAT and the Bulldogs had their 49-24 victory.

St. John mounted a final successful drive with Williams, Quinton Alexander, and Campesi getting good yardage, but Yarbrough was forced out of the game for a second time on a hard hit and the Eagles were done.

St. John, the defending district champs had a streak of multiple 8-A victories of 5-0 in 2009 and going back to 2006 (before a two-year stint in 2-A) ended by the Bulldogs.

Bracken finished with 277 yards rushing and four TDs. Martin had 167 yards on the ground and two scores as the Bulldogs rolled up 444 yards rushing in the victory.

SJHS had the edge in first downs, 16-11, and mounted 171 yards rushing and another 59 yards in the air as Yarbrough connected with Williams and Trevor Curry for some positive passing yards in the loss. However, the Eagles lost a fumble and three interceptions, while WCHS had one interception and one fumble loss. WCHS had 50 yards in penalties, while SJHS had 15.

White Castle tangles with 1-5 Ascension CHS tomorrow (Friday) night in hopes of increase its lot to 4-3 and 2-0. St. John High hosts 0-6 Christian Life tonight (Thursday) in their first home game after road losses to 2-A Dunham and WCHS. Both WCHS and SJHS are heavy favorites this week.