Two of the state’s elite programs — and two River Parish contenders — figure to make some fireworks Friday night as St. James hosts Destrehan.
Both Wildcat teams are unbeaten this season. St. James is fresh off a recent decisive win over Destrehan district rival East St. John, sandwiched between victories over Riverdale and West St. John. Destrehan, meanwhile, comes off its own statement win over St. Paul’s, while also topping Walker and Bonnabel.
Beyond the flawless records thus far and matching team mascots, there are other similarities. Both defenses can overwhelm an opponent with sheer speed and athleticism, and both rally to the ball like few others in the state.
But those defenses will be tested, and then some, on Friday. Both offensive teams operate from the spread and can move the ball any which way, be it through the air or up the gut.
“They’re a combination of size, speed, athletic ability … you name it and they’ve got it on both sides of the ball,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux. “They’re No. 1 in Class 3A for a reason. They’re real stout up front, real good defensively. They can run, they can throw, they can hurt you on the perimeter or up the middle. Their kicker kicks it into the endzone. Whatever it is you need, they’ve got what it takes.”
For St. James, Quarterback Shamar Smith keys the attack. Smith did not have to throw much last week on a night SJH rushed for 274 yards in a 35-13 win over Riverdale. He accounted for two scores, one on a run, another on a 65-yard touchdown pass to his favorite receiver, a dangerous playmaker in Shazz Preston.
“(Smith) makes so many plays, extending the play with his feet,” said Robicheaux. “When they throw it, Preston, those wide receivers, they’re all over the place. They can really do whatever they want to do back there.”
Running back Sean LeBoeuf was the star last Friday, though. He tallied 154 yards and scored three times on 13 carries.
Defensively, lineman Deandre Keller could make life difficult for Destrehan, a 260 lb. senior who anchors St. James up front. Linebacker Chase Geason is another standout, as is safety Tyler Steib. Each of the aforementioned players, on offense and defense, are seniors with the exception of Preston, so this team is an experienced one — perhaps the best Coach Robert Valdez has had since taking the helm of the program.
“The thing that really stands out when you look at them … they have so much speed on defense. Lots and lots of speed,” Robicheaux said. “If the first guy doesn’t get you, the next guy is right there. They swarm.”