Destrehan welcomes defending 3A state champs for River Parishes showdown

Jaden Harding of Destrehan

Thursday night will see a battle of teams that reached the Superdome in 2019, as defending 3A champion St. James comes to Destrehan to face off with last year’s Class 5A state runner-up.

The game was moved from Friday to Thursday due to concerns about Hurricane Delta, which threatens to affect  Louisiana later this week. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

While St. James has some turnover roster wise from its state championship winner, one might not have guessed it by the look of their season opening rout of Riverdale last week.

SJH (1-0) popped off big plays early and often behind running back Kaden Williams, who rushed for more than 120 yards with three touchdowns on just six carries. Williams splits time as a back and a receiver, and presents matchup problems for a defense.

Quarterback Marquell Bergeron will be getting his second start for St. James. Last week he connected with receivers for a pair of touchdown passes while tallying 160 yards through the air. Defensively, St. James was suffocating, as was its calling card in 2019.

Destrehan coach Marcus Scott said St. James is formidable across the board, particularly so on the defensive side of the ball and along its offensive line.

“They do bring back some experience, especially in those areas,” Scott said. “As far as the guys who graduated, the players stepping up into those roles are good players. That’s a really good program, obviously, and they’re very formidable opposition.”

While Williams and Bergeron led the way statistically last week, Scott also pointed to a very dangerous downfield weapon – Shazz Preston, who he noted as a premier talent.

“He’s one of the best players in our state, if not the entire nation,” Scott said. “Along with him, (Williams) is explosive as well. (Bergeron) is a really good player and gets the ball to those guys.

“That’s a team with a lot of weapons, and they know how to use them.”

Defensively, St. James has built a lineup that blisters opposition with speed at all levels.

“They run to the ball and they’re very active in the secondary,” Scott said. “They’re very strong on that side of the ball.”

That defense is led by defensive end Savion Jones, who is committed to LSU and has offers all over the country, including from Florida, Florida State and Baylor. The 6’5, 220 pound end is the 12th ranked prospect in the state.

“He can go anywhere in the nation,” Scott said. “He’s unbelievable and he has huge upside. What they do all starts with him.”

Last season, Destrehan suffered its first loss of the season on the road at St. James. SJH held off a late Destrehan charge to win, 31-24, and led 31-10 at one point.

For Destrehan to avenge that loss Thursday, it will have to clean up its errors from last week’s 22-14 loss at St. Paul’s. DHS led 14-3 in that game, but turnovers and penalties plagued DHS in the second half as the Wolves marched back to ultimately take the lead and the win.

With a defending champion on the slate this week, Destrehan could find itself 0-2 for the first time in many years. Scott is hardly panicked, though: he said the chance to play back to back programs to start the season is a welcome one, as it puts his Wildcats under the kind of stress test needed to reveal what needs addressing once district play starts next week.

“You can win 50-0 and feel good about yourselves, but you won’t find out much about who you are,” Scott said. “We’re playing two challenging programs over these first two weeks, which means we’ll have a realistic perspective of where we are and what we have to fix.”

Among the things he knows needs tweaking is an ability to close. Destrehan was in control of last week’s game before mistakes came back to haunt the team.

“A couple turnovers led to short fields, they took advantage and the momentum swung their way,” Scott said. “We’ve got some young kids in this position for the first time, who were seeing their first live action on the road against a good program. You never want to lose, but it’s a learning experience that’ll be valuable for them going forward.”

 

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