St. James caps perfect season with romp over Jennings in Class 3A title game
NEW ORLEANS – The players, coaches and fans plaid in back and gold gear were indeed partying Friday night like it was 1979 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
St. James completed a perfect season by winning the Class 3A State Championship with a 51-14 rout of No. 23 seed Jennings at the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Prep Classic. As a result, the top-seeded Wildcats wrapped up a 15-0 campaign with the school’s first state football championship in 40 years.
“It’s so special because our community is a blue collar community. This is for them. They come out and support anything that’s St James,” Wildcats head coach Robert Valdez explained. “It’s also for us. The hard work and dedication we put in.”
There was no doubt who would be most outstanding player for St. James as dynamic quarterback Shamar Smith shined like he has all year long. The UTSA commitment completed 14 of 19 passes for 229 yards and added 71 rushing yards. The do-it-all Wildcats leader has been a dual threat force on offense and a return threat in the kicking game all season.
“No. 3 (Smith) is a fabulous player. I’ve been saying that since Saturday when we turned on the flim,” Jennings head coach Rusty Phelps said. “He throws the football incredibly well. It comes out of his hand real fast.”
Smith accounted for four total scores, tossing a pair of bombs from 82 and 63 yards out while adding two rushing touchdowns including a 48-yard scamper plus a three-yard score.
“Shamar has been doing since his freshman year. I always knew he was a special athlete,” Valdez added. “I remember the four-touchdown game as a freshman against West St.John. Boy, I’m gonna miss him.”
St. James spotted Jennings an early scoring chance thanks to a fumble on the opening kickoff, and the Bulldogs cashed in on the possession in the redzone to lead 7-0. The Wildcats then scored the next 38 points of the contest.
Sean Lebeouf had a pair of touchdowns including score to even the score at 7.
After the early miscue, the St. James special teams atoned quickly for the error. A blocked punt set up a 45-yard field goal by Alec Mahler to give the Wildcats their first lead, 10-7.
St James blew the game open via explosive plays in the second quarter, first with the 48-yard touchdown by Smith followed by a 82-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Daniel Jupiter. Smith’s three-yard keeper made it a 31-7 advantage for the top-seed at the break.
Lebeouf, who rushed for 110 yards, notched his second score. At that point, an extended party on the sidelines and in the stands was on for the Wildcats and their fans.
Trevor Etienne, the title game MVP for Jennings (9-6), led the way for the Bulldogs with 111 yards on 18 carries.
“I think we missed a few opportunities early,” Phelps said. “But I’m a disappointed, but take it from a guy who has been trying to get here for 31 years, it’s a great experience so proud of these guys and our run.”
Jennings had won three straight playoff games by one point to craft a Cinderella run to the finals.
One fairy tale season ended but another four decades in the making had the happiest of endings.
NOTES: An announced attendance of 17,029 fans attended Friday’s three-game session. The average score of the three title games played was 58-18 in a day of one-sided championships.
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