Everyone knows when St. James runs the football, it will be either Sean Lebeouf or Shamar Smith getting the call.
It was Lebeouf’s night in the Class 3A quarterfinals Friday in Vacherie as the Wildcats running back rushed for three touchdowns in St. James’ 32-13 win over visiting Brusly.
“When you play in the playoffs and you get to the quarterfinals, you have to be able to run the ball, especially against a team that was trying to play ball control. We through we had to use the ground game to give us some more time because they (the Panthers) did a good job offensively. We ran the ball to try and give our defense a little bit of a rest at times,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
The win advances top-seeded St. James (13-0) to the semifinals next week. The Wildcats will host No. 12 seed Union Parish, a 35-26 winner over Madison Prep, the No. 4 seed.
“It feels great. We had a lot of energy tonight. I can’t imagine how it will be next week with our fans and community. The kids get to practice Week 14 and the state semifinals, I just can’t wait to get to work,” said Valdez.
The last of Lebeouf’s three rushing touchdowns was the backbreaker for the Panthers.
St. James was clinging to a 17-7 halftime lead with the Panthers marching with the second-half kickoff, reaching the SJH 33-yard line before the Wildcats defense forced a turnover on downs.
Two plays after the defensive stop, Lebeouf broke free on a 61-yard touchdown scamper to extend the St. James lead to 23-7 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
While it was no surprise whenever Lebeouf got the ball, what was a bit of a shocker was who didn’t get the ball for Brusly when the Panthers needed key yards to keep drives alive.
The teams traded scores to open the game.
St. James scored on the opening drive of the game on a 19-yard run by Lebeouf, with the Wildcats running back diving into the end zone to end his run.
On Brusly’s first play from scrimmage, running back Joseph Westly broke loose on a 48-yard run to the St. James 30.
Five plays later, Westly ran up the middle from 8-yards out to tie the game 7-7 at the 4:29 mark of the first quarter.
A 2-yard run by Lebeouf on St. James’ next possession capped a 69-yard drive to put SJH back on top 14-7 with 1:51 left in the opening quarter.
A punt and long roll pinned Brusly (7-6) at its own 7-yard line with 7:55 remaining in the first half.
Behind the running of Westly and burly Brusly quarterback Nick Pinell, the Panthers appeared as though the might march the length of the field to close out the first half, eventually facing fourth-and-2 from the SJH 27.
Instead of a handoff to Westly or Pinell keeping the ball himself, he attempted a short pass intended for Sammy Daquano. The toss was low and Daquano was unable to haul the ball in as he was hit by a Wildcat defender, giving the ball to St. James with 56 seconds left in the half.
The Wildcats quickly moved up the field, setting up a 34-yard Alec Mahler field goal on the final play of the second quarter to give St. James a 17-7 lead at halftime.
Brusly got the ball to start the second half and mounted a drive, again behind the running of Westly and Pinell. A pass interference call against the Wildcats on a fake punt by the Panthers on fourth-and-7 from the Brusly 47 kept the drive alive.
Facing fourth-and-5 from the St. James 33, the Panthers again tried for a fourth-down conversion. Once more, Brusly elected to throw the ball. A pass intended for Dale Gordon over the middle fell incomplete.
“That kind of surprised me a little bit. I just think they looked at what we were lining up in defensively and they may not be able to match it,” Valdez said.
It was after the defensive stop that Lebeouf broke free on his 61-yard touchdown run.
After Lebeouf’s score, Westly countered with his second touchdown( to make it 23-13.
Smith scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter and Mahler kicked a second field goal as the Wildcats won 32-13 to remain unbeaten on the season.