VACHERIE – Unlike some River Parishes neighbors, East St. John and St. James don't have a long, storied history.
Before Friday night they had only played 11 times and had not met since 2001.
But that did nothing to diminish the rivalry between these two sets of black and gold Wildcats. And after taking a 30-13 win Friday night, St. James, which won that 2001 game, earned the right to brag for at least another year.
St. James took advantage of a slew of East St. John miscues and outlasted its fellow Wildcats in a three-hour, penalty and cramp-filled marathon of a game in Vacherie. East St. John was penalized 12 times for 90 yards. St. James had only three flags for 45 yards. The two teams also combined for 55 pass attempts. Then, the second half was interrupted repeatedly for cramping players.
St. James quarterback Shamar Smith stood out, however. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 104 yards and three scores. Logan Gravois was on the receiving end of a 23-yard pass from Smith.
St. James also took advantage of three East St. John turnovers.
On their opening drive, the visiting Wildcats went backward from the 20 before ESJ quarterback Sean Shelby connected with Alonzo Porter on a screen pass for a nice gain, but Porter lost the ball at his own 36. Savion Jones recovered for St. James and, from there, St. James needed only nine plays and 3:38 to score. Smith kept for a 3-yard score with 7:09 remaining in the first quarter. Alec Mahler’s PAT put St. James ahead 7-0.
East St. John had no better luck on the next drive, fumbling at its own 40-yard line with De Andre Keller recovering for St. James, but it could not capitalize.
St. James wouldn’t score again until the second quarter, again following an East St. John turnover — this one an interception by Keshawn Coleman at the East St. John 46-yard line with 9:29 remaining in the first half. Smith found a couple of receivers for short gains, but got his team into real scoring position with a 34-yard run to the East St. John 11. On the next play, Smith connected with Shazz Preston for the score. Coach Robert Valdez elected to go for the 2-point conversion — a pass from Smith to Lamon Lewis — to give St. James a 17-0 lead with 6:59 remaining in the half.
St. James got another two points when the Wildcats next punt rolled out the back of the end zone for a St. James safety.
After receiving the kick, St. James started its next drive for the first time in their own territory, but still put together a 6-play drive. After a personal foul penalty gave St. James the ball at the East St. John 23, Smith connected with Logan Gravois for the touchdown. The PAT failed, leaving St. James with a 23-0 lead.
East St. John finally got a break after when Rydell Jackson returned the ensuing kick to the St. James 27-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Shelby found Markel August for the touchdown.
East St. John added a touchdown late in the game, with Shelby connecting with Rydell Jackson for a 12-yard touchdown. The PAT was no good.