After advancing to the Class 1A title game a year ago, some skeptics probably wrote West St. John High off.
After all, the Rams graduated linebacker-defensive end Ronnie Feist, who is getting playing tinme as a true freshman at LSU, from their 2011 team that was the Class 1A runner-up to Ouachita Christian. Jairus Moll has gone from WSJHS to the starting lineup at Jackson State as a wide receiver.
But coach Robert Valdez likes his 5-3 team and its chances once the playoffs begin. The Rams, currently ranked fifth in Class 1A, can wrap up the District 9-1A title this week with a win at East Iberville.
Three early losses to teams in either Class 5A (Bonnabel, McKinley) and 4A (O.P. Walker) gives WSJHS a record that isn’t as gaudy as some of the other top teams. That doesn’t bother Valdez.
“I really like this team,” Valdez said. “It was tough early on, but I believe the schedule we played has helped us get ready to be where we are. Class 1A is strong this year. You’ve got several teams who I think are very good. I like our chances in the playoffs.”
Balance is the key for the Rams on offense. Junior quarterback Austin Howard and senior running back Kylum Favorite were 2011 standouts who are difference-makers again.
Valdez said Howard has approximately 800 yards passing, including a 200-yard effort two weeks ago against White Castle. Howard completed 12 of 13 passes in last week’s win over St. John.
Favorite has 780 rushing yards for WSJHS and is complemented by Jeremy Jackson, who has approximately 500 rushing yards, according to Valdez.
First-year starter Keith Miller is the top receiver and had five catches for 90 yards last week. Timothy Nelson, a senior playing football for the first time, has emerged as another receiving weapon.
“Once you get in the playoffs you have to be balanced on offense and you need to be able to stop people on defense,” Valdez said. “Obviously, we still need to improve, but we’ve got balance and our defense is playing well.”
West Monroe (7-2) dropped one spot, falling to No. 3 in the latest Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Class 5A poll after losing 31-7 to American Heritage, of Delray Beach, Fla., in a nondistrict game played at WMHS Saturday.
Greg Bryant ran for 149 yards and two TDs, while Marcus Davis passed for 80 yards and ran for 84 to pace the Stallions (8-0), who notched their 19th straight win.
American Heritage out-gained West Monroe, 313 yards to 133. Michael Mims scored the lone TD for the Rebels in the second quarter.
John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis continues to add to his all-time best total for wins. Curtis’ Patriots are now 8-0, making his career mark 514-54-6.
Curtis is not the only coach adding to his win total. With his team’s 7-2, the career mark for West Monroe’s Don Shows is now 341-77-0. Shows sits in fourth place behind St. Thomas More’s Jim Hightower, whose record of 355-111-1 includes this year’s 6-3 mark.
Former Haynesville High coach Alton “Red” Franklin sits alone in second at 366-76-8.
Baton Rouge and surrounding area coaches making moves up the all-time wins chart include Catholic High’s Dale Weiner, Lutcher’s Tim Detillier and Kentwood’s David Currier.
Weiner is 277-97, including the Bears’ 6-2 mark going into Friday’s District 5-5A showdown with fifth-ranked Dutchtown (7-1). Weiner sits in ninth place, behind Notre Dame-Crowley’s Lewis Cook, who is 282-75.
Currier is 240-82 going into his team’s District 7-1A showdown at Southern Lab Friday. Lutcher’s Detillier (239-99) is one game back going into his team’s District 6-4A showdown with Plaquemine.