West St. John coasts past White Castle

EDGARD — West St. John got off to a bit of a slow start in Friday night’s regional playoff game against White Castle.

The Rams soon made up for lost time.

After an exchange of punts early in the game, West St. John scored on its next three possessions and seven of its next eight to coast to a 48-12 victory over its familiar district foe. The two teams met just two weeks ago, with the Rams taking a 41-22 victory.

Sophomore running back Jeremy Jackson and Kylum Favorite combined to rush for 291 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns. Jackson also scored on an 84-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter. Justin Bethancourt added a 57-yard punt return in the first half.

Quarterback Austin Howard didn’t sit this one out. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Keith Miller and Timothy Nelson on short scores.

The Rams defense, meanwhile, held White Castle to an early touchdown and a late one and a total of 282 yards of offense — all but 26 of that rushing and 75 of that on one play. Quarterback Chris Major scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter. Moses Young scored on a 1-yard run with 28 seconds left in the game.

West St. John dominated all phases of the game, but Rams coach Robert Valdez singled out his defense.

“Our mantra, or any good football team, is you’ve got to play defense,” he said. “If you can couple defense with special teams, it gives you a good chance of success.”

“They came out competitive,” Howard said. “But we knew that was going to happen because of the first loss. So we knew what we had to do. We had to buckle down. We got in the game, we kept swinging down, and we never let up.”

White Castle set up the Rams’ first score when it set up to punt from its own 14-yard line. But after a bad snap, Andre Prevot tried to run it, fumbled and recovered at the Bulldogs’ 8. From there, West St. John needed just two plays to score as Howard tossed a short pass to Miller. Jackson ran for the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead with 1:35 remaining in the quarter.

White Castle then chewed some clock. The Bulldogs took over at their own 25-yard line and punted from their own 39 seven plays later. But the Rams crushed punter Prevot and were flagged for a personal foul. With new life at the Rams’ 46, Chris Major drove the Bulldogs to the end zone in 18 plays. He dove in from the 1 with five minutes remaining in the half. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Bulldogs trailing 8-6.

The rest of the half was all West St. John.

The Rams answered with a five play, 73-yard drive fueled by big plays from Jackson. On the first play from scrimmage, he ran for 43 yards to the White Castle 30. Three plays later, he caught a 29-yard pass from Howard to get to the 8. He ran the rest with 3:03 remaining to put the Rams ahead 14-6.

That lead was increased a short time later when Bethancourt fielded a punt at his own 43, broke a tackle at the 44 and broke into the open field for a 57-yard touchdown with 1:07 remaining in the half. The Rams had the ball at the White Castle 2 as time expired in the first half.

But West St. John extended its lead quickly in the second half. After deferring the opening kickoff, the Rams took the second half kickoff. Rather, Jackson did and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown that made it 28-6.

Back-to-back fumbles set up the Rams’ next two touchdowns. Favorite converted one, scoring on a 45-yard touchdown with 10:55 remaining in the third quarter. After the second, the Rams covered 18 yards in six plays. From the Bulldogs’ 4, Howard connected with Nelson for the score to make it 42-6.