St. James runs through Dale County, 52-26, cements status as playoff threat

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

Before St. James ran onto the field, and then all over Dale County, lineman Cole Bender gathered the team in the end zone. The senior stomped and yelled, continuing a tradition that started week one against Montgomery Academy. 

Coaches hadn't joined the team yet for a pregame prayer, so Bender started to pump up his teammates. Ever since, he's christened each contest with a speech. Bender never intended to be the team's hype man. Yet, making the most of the unexpected has been the Trojans' specialty all season.

With 17 starters graduated from last year's squad, the Trojans have had no other choice. That mindset, along with a successful smash-mouth offense, didn't change Thursday night. 

St. James, with four underclassmen on the offensive line and 14-year-old quarterback K.J. Jackson, cruised past Dale County, 52-26, with 257 rushing yards. Tailback Cosner Harrison totaled 232 yards on 22 carries for two touchdowns. Jackson added 171 passing yards and accounted for four touchdowns.

The Trojans (5-2) are in line to host a Class 4A, Region 2 playoff game after the dominant performance at Carlisle Stadium. The underclassmen stole the show on homecoming night, handling a short week as Hurricane Delta moved kickoff 24 hours earlier. The 2020 season forced teams to adjust, and none more than St. James, and the Trojans have handled it with ease. Has coach Jimmy Perry ever had a underclassmen-led team start like this in his 38-year coaching career? 

"No, I don't think so," he said. " ... It was a total team effort." 

Harrison described the Trojan offense as "go right at them and bomb it." The strategy worked early against the Warriors. They strung together tosses and dives before Jackson threw a play-action touchdown.

Dale Co. responded early, with quarterback Ethan Teal taking keepers up the middle and scrambling on passes. Yet, turnovers and stalled drives gave St. James an opening.

Leading by seven in the second quarter, the Trojans looked to be running another outside run to Harrison. But the sophomore planted his feet and lobbed the ball to Zac Russell for a 45-yard touchdown. 

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The Warriors' deficit ballooned in the second half. Jackson threw for his third touchdown — a perfectly-placed go-route — and ran for another on a three-yard quarterback-sneak. 

"We're a running football team and now we got a quarterback that can keep people off of us," Perry said.

The Trojans have now won two-straight following an overtime loss to Alabama Christian.