After spending most of the season as the top-ranked team in Class 3A and positioning themselves for the top seed in the playoffs, the St. James Wildcats are exactly where they want to be in early December.
“Here we are playing in Week 14 and we get a chance to play at home and we’re playing in beautiful downtown Vacherie. I’m real excited about that,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said.
The Wildcats (13-0) are now only one win away from reached the state championship game next week in the Superdome in New Orleans.
To get there, the Wildcats first face a stern test against Union Parish.
“I tell people that when you are this close to a championship, it’s supposed to be that way,” said Valdez.
While St. James moved through the bracket as the No. 1, Union Parish has defied the odds in reaching the state semifinals. The No. 12 seed Farmers (9-4) knocked off two higher seeds to reach the final four of Class 3A. Union Parish defeated No. 5 Caldwell Parish in the second round and No. 4 Madison Prep in the quarterfinals.
Now, the Farmers seek to knock off the top-seeded Wildcats when the teams meet Friday in Vacherie.
The game will be live streamed on VSN Louisiana. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“They are ‘bully ball.’ They are more three yards and a cloud of dust,” Valdez said of the Farmers on offense.
Leading the offense is junior quarterback Trent Ginn.
“He’s not a big guy. He’s like 5-5, and maybe 170 pounds but they are downhill football. They will find various ways to run the ball. They line up in a pro-style I (formation). They line up in the shotgun. They run counters. They run powers. They do mis-directions and reverses and all that. They do a lot of different thing to find way to run the ball.”
Holly, a freshman, is coming off a quarterfinal game against Madison Prep in which he rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
Union Parish’s attack has been particularly potent in the playoffs. Since the playoffs began, Holly has accumulated 560 all-purpose yards and Ginn 402.
Kieran Perry is a slot receiver for the Farmers.
“He’s the mis-direction guy. He’s the jet sweep guy. He’s the guy they want to get the ball to on the perimeter. He has tremendous speed. He’s not a big guy but he’s a flash-and-dash type of guy,” Valdez noted.
Jaylon Gales is a big target as a 6-foot-5 tight end.
“They use him, but he’s mainly more of a blocker and play-action type guy. He’s more of an unbalanced tight end and gives you and extra blocker,” said Valdez.
The offensive line features a few 300-pounders in 313-pound Raylen Hunter and 310-pound Dalton Hogue.
“They do a lot of pulling to the right,” Valdez said of Union Parish’s offensive line. “They move well. They are come-off-the-ball type guys. It will be big-boy football.
“In order to contain them and stop them, we have to be grimy up front and stop the run.”
The Famers play a 50-style defense with a nose guard.
“They have a very active, aggressive defensive front with two standup outside linebackers. They blitz them and send them from time to time to give you problems. Their linebackers aren’t really huge, but are quick.” Valdez said.
One of Union Parish’s top defenders is middle linebacker Rashad Singleton.
“They leave him in the box. Most of the time when you spread them out, he’s the one that is kept in the box. He makes plays because of the big boys up front,” Valdez said.
The script for success continues to be written for the Wildcats, with a couple of more chapters yet to be penned.
“I don’t know if I’ve had too many things work out before in life, but this one has worked out pretty well,” Valdez said.
Click below for the link to the game that is set to begin on Friday, December 6 at 7 p.m.