St. Amant survives late St. James rally, improves to 5-0 with 41-27 win

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VACHERIE, La. – The St. Amant Gators withstood a furious fourth quarter rally by the St. James Wildcats, holding on for a 41-27 victory to move to 5-0 on the season.

Trailing 35-13 with 9:40 to play, St. James intercepted St. Amant quarterback Halen Miller near midfield.  The Waildcats scored six plays later on a two yard run by Kailin Johnson, closing to within 35-21 with 6:53 to go.

Three plays into the ensuing driving, another pass picked off by St. James gave fuel to the comeback fire.  Three plays later, the Wildcats cut the deficit to one score on a 27 yard touchdown pass from Shamar Smith to Sean Preston, bringing the score to 35-27 after a missed PAT with 4:19 remaining in the game.

Another defensive stop set the Wildcats up with a chance to tie the game with 2:28 to play in the fourth quarter.  But the St. Amant defense stepped up with its play of the season to date, intercepting Smith’s first down pass and slamming the door on the comeback.  Any doubts were officially put to rest with Cade Nelson’s 5 yard touchdown run to cap the win for the Gators.

“They went out and made a play when they needed to make one,” said St. Amant Head Coach David Oliver on the game clinching interception. “We’re proud of our defense, they’ve been the backbone of our team all year long.”

In a match-up of unbeatens, the game appeared to be no match at all for three quarters.  St. Amant controlled the line of scrimmage, easily moving the ball down the field all night long through the air and on the ground.

One week after posting 503 yards against Lutcher, St. Amant (5-0) racked up 396 yards of total offense against the Wildcats.  Quarterback Halen Miller sliced through the St. James secondary, finishing 15-for-21 for 223 yards, 121 of which were hauled in by Grant Alexander on only four receptions.

The Gators were balanced, adding 173 more yards rushing.  Cade Nelson led the way with 131 yards on 26 carries and four touchdowns.

St. James quarterback Shamar Smith finished the night only 11-for-31 passing, but managed to tally 255 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions thanks to a late push.  Smith also led the Wildcats rushing, racking up 78 more yards on 13 carries.

St. Amant scored on four of their 5 possessions in the half, en route to a 21-7 halftime lead.

The Gators found success moving the football right out of the gate after taking the opening kickoff and proceding to march down to the St. James 20 yard line before the drive stalled out and the fake field goal attempt failed.  After holding the Wildcats to a three and out, the Gators took over at their own 28 and would not be denied. Two 31 yard passes from Miller moved the Gators down to the St. James 12.  Two plays later, Nelson punched it into the end zone from 3 yards out, giving St. Amant a 7-0 lead with 2:40 to play in the first quarter.

After a long punt return to the St. James six-yard line, Miller put the ball into the end zone on a 1 yard keeper.  A two point conversion extended the St. Amant lead to 15-0 at the 11:25 mark in the second quarter.

The Gators defense again stepped up on the ensuing drive, intercepting Smith’s pass at midfield to give St. Amant terrific field position that helped set up a 46 yard Hector Rodriguez field goal to make it 18-0 with 6:48 to play in the half.

St. James (4-1) fund paydirt on their fourth possession.  Starting at their own 20, the Wildcats marched 80 yards in eightplays, scoring on a 4 yard pass from Smith to Kailin Johnson with 3:41 to play in the half and cutting the St. Amant lead to 18-7.

Taking over at their 47 following an onside kick, the Gators quickly moved all the way down to the St. James one yard line.  However, the Wildcats stuffed Nelson for a three yard loss. Rodriguez nailed a 22-yard field goal to give the Gators a 21-7 halftime advantage.

On their second possession of the third quarter, St. James drew closer thanks to a 56 yard touchdown pass from Smith to Sean Preston to cut the St. Amant lead to 21-13 with 6:25 to play in the third quarter.

But the Gators quickly wrestled momentum back away from St. James with two Cade Nelson rushing touchdowns to extend the lead to 35-13 early in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the furious yet ill-fated rally by the Wildcats.

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