SJHS Eagles rally to beat St. Michael a second year in a row at All-Catholic Jamboree
St. John High’s offense refused to lose in the final two minutes of play as the local Class 1-A Eagles rallied for a 16-12 victory over 4-A St. Michael the Archangel High in the annual All-Catholic Football Jamboree last Friday at Baton Rouge’s Redemptorist High.
An uplifting 70-yard scoring drive was sparked by new offensive standout Christian Primeaux, who ended up scoring all of the SJHS points in the game with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.
But, while the Eagle fans were treated to the talents of the speedy senior transfer running back, the Eagles’ true hopes continued to be tested for a second football season in a row as yet another standout fell to injury, even before the game began.
Standout senior defensive back-wide receiver-place kicker and punter Connor Case began pre-game warm-ups booming a couple of perfect 50-yard field goals. Moments later, while doing warm-ups for his defensive back position, Case injured his right ankle that had left him idle through most of the preseason workouts. Before the jamboree game had ended, Case was wheeled away to the hospital for an x-ray of his ankle.
Moments after the pre-game injury Coach Barry “Tut” Musemeche walked over, shaking his head in total disbelief of what seems to be a continuation of the “Curse of 2010”. Last gridiron season St. John lost as many as a half-dozen key starters, the very foundation of a team that could have challenged for 1-A state honors a second year in a row. No team in state high school football lost so many to injury in a single season in many Falls. Now, through a preseason scrimmage and a jamboree, the Eagles lost Case last week and transfer RB-DB-QB J.J. Holmes (leg injury) the week prior.
But, life and football goes on.
Musemeche regrouped the forty remaining Eagle football players and they went on to show Baton Rouge Catholic football fans a thing or two about true grit. Facing a 4-A foe with twice the number of players in uniform, the Eagles fought and eventually out-played their opponents.
St. John dominated the early going of the first half of the time-abbreviated jam contest, fell behind eventually by a 12-8 score, but rallied back to win on an impressive final scoring drive.
The Eagles kicked off to the SMHS Warriors and slammed the door on the foes’ offense. First, junior lineman Curtis Jones slowed up a Warrior RB to eventually stop a possible big gainer on the first play from scrimmage, and then on a third and one situation, senior linebacker Quinton Alexander blew in to nail a St. Michael back for a loss, forcing the first ball exchange of the game.
At that point the Eagle offense took control, putting together a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that rocked the Warrior defense back on its heels.
Former RB senior Da’vante Williams moved to quarterback sparked the early yardage pickups behind the blocking of the veteran Eagle offensive line. He ran twice for a first down and then passed 15-yards to senior fullback Kaleb Campesi in the flats for a second first down. It was time to showcase newcomer Primeaux, a former Holy Family of Port Allen junior high standout and previous Catholic High BR football-basketball player. Lost in the massive 100-player Class 5-A squad for three seasons, Christian Primeaux has obviously found a gridiron “heaven” in a SJHS uniform. The speedy and elusive running back gave his first notice of talent in official play as he broke for a 13-yard pickup, sending the Eagles into Warrior territory.
Williams broke free again on a first-down run, then again for seven more yards before Campesi bulled his way for a first down. Primeaux got the final two carries and scored on a five-yard run that left Warrior defenders grabbing for thin air. The transfer standout ran the ball in for a two-point conversion, and with 5:54 left in the first half, the Eagles were up 8-0.
It was time for highly-touted St. Michael QB Dash Duncan to show off his passing talents and he indeed drove the Eagle defense daffy. Duncan went to the air lanes and drove the Warriors down the field, capping an impressive drive with a 25-yard TD pass to C.J. Okpalobi. SMHS missed on a conversion try and the Eagles held a narrow 8-6 lead.
The Eagles again moved the football with Primeaux adding yardage to what ended up a game-high 111 total yards rushing on a couple of key carries. But the Eagles lost the ball on a fumble near midfield on the mishandling of a long center snap to the QB.
Duncan missed on a pair of passes, but then found his range again and threaded in a pair of key first down throws and finally a four-yard TD toss to J.T. Maudin. Again the Warriors missed a conversion opportunity, but led 12-8 on the scoreboard through halftime. However, the St. Michael club was haunted by what ended up another impressive SJHS drive that only the clock seemed to stop. With time running out in the first half, the Eagles moved the ball with QB Hunter Schnebelen rushing for four yards and then Primeaux breaking free for 20. The clock ran out with Schnebelen connecting with Primeaux for a first-down pass.
The Eagles threatened on the first possession of the second half when Primeaux broke tackles and weaved his way through the Warrior defense for a good 40-yards or so. But on the next play an Eagle running back went nine yards before coughing up the pigskin, giving the foes the ball at their 27-yardline. The Warriors avoided a possible score, but they could not avoid the Eagles’ Jones and his defensive mates as they forced an exchange of the ball. Jones and sophomore John Romig came up with a duel hit on a key stop.
St. John went back on a long, time-consuming drive. Williams led the way with several key ground gainers and Campesi added a tough-yardage first-down pickup after a run by Trevor Curry. Primeaux added a couple of gainers, but a holding flag set back the Eagles, forcing them to the air lanes. With the ball at the SMHS 19, Primeaux just did miss the handle on a pass for a possible first down inside the 10, and, without the handy toe of Case, the Eagles had to give up the ball with no points gained.
St. Michael’s offense moved for a first down, but then the Eagle defense stiffened and St. John regained the football on a punt. Taking over near their own 30, the Eagles mounted what would prove to be the winning drive.
Williams got the Eagles rolling with an 18-yard pickup. Not long after Williams flipped a short pass to Primeaux and the new SJHS back turned the play into a 30-yard gainer by breaking a pair of tackles and then darting and faking his way down field to set up the Eagles inside Warrior territory. Again, Williams turned in a huge run, going through the SMHS defense, finally dragging a couple of Warriors for extra yardage and a 21-yard pickup. The next play Williams hit tight end Nick Lefebvre for a nine-yard gain and then Primeaux ran off tackle for five more yards to get the Eagles to the SMHS nine-yardline. On the next play, Primeaux blasted his way to the end zone to score the go-ahead points, giving SJHS a 14-12 lead. He team tallied on a two-point conversion to make it 16-12. St. John kicked off and stopped the Warriors’ attempts to rally and the victory belonged to the Eagles.
After the game, Musemeche complimented his club’s defensive effort in the second half and their ability to rally for the winning points.
The Eagles went back to work early because they play their regular season opener tonight (Thursday) at Olympia Stadium in Baton Rouge against hosting 4-A Belaire High, a future District 6-4A foe of St. Michael and Plaquemine High. This will be the third-straight season SJHS has played its opener against Belaire. The Eagles won by lopsided scores the last two seasons. Belaire was winless last year, but has a new coaching staff and several returning players.