METAIRIE — Three seasons ago, Rummel quarterback Damian Williams followed examples.
Now he sets them. His latest leadership trend?
Reaching the Class 5A state championship game for the second time in school history — and the second time in four years — is not celebration worthy at Rummel, located less than seven miles from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where on Saturday, the Raiders (13-0) will face Barbe-Lake Charles (13-1) at the 2012 LHSAA/State Farm Prep Classic.
Williams wants his teammates to be happy with their accomplishments, but not content. There’s still work to be done this week — one more win at stake.
“If you think you’ve accomplished something, coming this far, you haven’t really done anything,” said Williams, who has passed for 1,707 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He has also run for 822 yards and 10 TDs.
Starting next week, Williams will have plenty of time to ponder which college programs he wants to visit and reminisce about his high school career, which includes returning to the state finals, a setting he has not reached since his ninth-grade season. (Doing so, he said, has allowed him to focus on giving his teammates everything they expect from him on game days without personal distractions.) Back then in 2009, Rummel lost 30-0 to West Monroe as Williams was unable to end his freshman season in fantastic fashion.
Three years later, Williams makes better decisions with the football.
Coach Jay Roth said his completion percentage has increased from about 51 percent as a sophomore to 70 percent this season, a product of his improved understanding of defensive coverages and chemistry with receivers. He’s also a leader, able to motivate teammates on the sideline and in the locker room, a task he takes seriously.
To reach the Superdome, the Raiders (13-0) needed Williams to throw for one score, run for another and lead a game-winning drive last Friday against Mandeville in the 5A semifinals, capped by Zachary Pilet’s 32-yard field goal. Rummel won 17-14.
Rummel will need even more from Williams against Barbe (13-1), which has outscored its playoff opponents 156-111.
“Our best defense this week will be our offense,” Roth said. “Barbe is so powerful on offense, averaging 40 points a game. We’ve got keep the football and keep them off the field. And we’ve got to score. It’s not good enough for us to off run time.”
This week, Roth expects Williams, one of 15 lettermen remaining from the 2009 squad — he and linebacker Terrance Jones were the only freshmen starters — to remind his teammates that this week is something to be excited about, but not giddy. This isn’t a playful week at the Metairie campus. This is a week of preparation, and hopefully one that leads to a state title.
“We got here with three years of hard work,” Williams said. “It just shows how hard we worked, that we got back here. We just kept pushing.”
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