Last game TD gives visiting Rams second-place honors over SJHS in 8-A grid finale

Tryve Brackin
EAGLE PRESSURE…St. John defensive end Herman Fitch (81) pressures West St. John QB Quad Howard (3) into a hurried incomplete pass. Late in the game Howard hit on a 23-yard TD strike to boost his Ram club to a second-place clinching 21-14 victory over the local Eagles. Fitch played a solid game to lead the SJHS defense in the loss.

It was a battle from start to finish as the Eagle talons locked up with the Ram horns in a District 8-A football finale with second-place honors hanging upon the final score.

The visiting West St. John High Rams took the honors via a fourth-quarter 23-yard TD pass as they edged out the local St. John High Eagles 21-14.

Even more importantly for Coach Barry “Tut” Musemeche hung the final regular season power point total as his SJHS Eagles held a narrow 18th-seed to 19th-seed for WSJHS in the Class 1-A playoffs prior to kickoff. Musemeche was hoping for an Eagle victory and a possible home field advantage for the first round of the state playoffs this week. The Eagle coach was hoping to battle off West St. John and others for the highest seed of the 1-A 6-4 overall record teamsA rash of season-long injuries held back the local St. John club time and time again. By the regular season finale, a trio of key Eagles were still out of uniform: linebacker-running back senior and Louisiana Tech commitment Warren Bates, senior quarterback Michael Martinez, and junior tight end-defensive end Nathan Voisin. The loss of those three players created several lineup moves, hurting the Eagles on both offense and defense for much of the 2010 regular season. The end result was the lowest district finish (third place) for an Eagle gridiron team since the late 1990s and the first 5-5 breakeven regular season showing in an even longer stretch of time for one of the state’s strongest 1-A football programs.

Despite the injury setbacks, the Eagles closed out 8-A play with a 3-2 record and decisive victories over fourth-place Ascension CHS (2-3), Christian Life (1-4), and East Iberville (0-5). Non-district wins came against 2-A playoff-bound Pope John Paul and 4-A Belaire High.

Friday night poor first-quarter field position proved costly to the Eagles. The visiting Rams opened with a long drive, sparked by key runs by eighth-grade RB Jeremy Jackson. West St. John did not score immediately, but they hung around for the entire first quarter down in Eagle territory. The Rams fumbled away possession on the initial drive and then Wesley Miller picked off a pass deep inside Eagle territory to stop another early scoring attempt. Each time the Eagles got the ball back down deep they could not move out of harm’s way. WSJHS finally broke through on a pass interception and 15-yard TD return by Lawrence Williams. A PAT boot put the Rams ahead 7-0.

But, to the credit of the Eagles, each time the Rams tallied early in the game, the locals had an answer. Though they never led on the scoreboard they rallied back twice to tie the game. The first tie came on an impressive drive, keyed by passes from senior quarterback Kade Yarbrough to junior running back standout Da’vante Williams. The Eagles tied the score at 7-7 after a PAT by Connor Case following a 13-yard TD reception by Williams early in the second period.

The game turned into a defensive struggle for the remainder of the second quarter as Eagle defenders Herman Fitch, Kaleb Campesi, and Jared Naquin led the way against a Ram defense sparked by their strong defensive line and linebacking corps.

St. John’s offense again found itself deep in its own territory to start the third period and again the Rams took advantage of the good field position. SJHS punted the ball away and senior Jarius Moll returned the kick 50 yards for a touchdown to push the Rams to a 14-7 lead.

Back came St. John with their best drive of the game. Williams broke free for a long run to get the Eagles going and then a facemask flag on the Rams turned a 3-yard pass to Trevor Curry into a first-down deep into WSJHS territory. Yarbrough hit Williams with a nine-yard pass and then two plays later the Eagle QB picked up a clutch first down on short run. It took two more short runs for the Eagles to score, but Yarbrough cracked over from the one-yardline, and Case bagged the PAT to again tie the score, this time at 14-14.

Some key stops led by Fitch, Naquin, and Garrett LeStage countered a long run by Ram QB Quad Howard as the fourth quarter rolled around. The teams stopped one another and punted away and then Williams picked off a Howard pass to give Eagles possession down deep in Ram territory. But on the first play from scrimmage the Eagles bobbled the ball and the Rams came up with a huge turnover with just a little over three minutes left to play. Then, with 2:36 left, Howard lofted a perfect pass to Moll in the back of the end zone. Moll had a step on a SJHS defender and snagged the pass a split-second before crossing the back line of the end zone. It was the winning touchdown for the Rams, who booted the PAT for their winning 21-14 total.

St. John got the ball back, but could not move it for a first down and the contest ended.

The hosting Eagles finished with 122 yards rushing and 36 passing to go with three turnovers and nine first downs. West St. John closed with 157 yards rushing, 62 yards passing, 10 first downs, and three turnovers. The Rams had 80 yards in penalty flags, while the Eagles suffered only 20 yards.