West St. John again a state title threat
When it comes to Class 1A football in Louisiana, you can always count on West St. John making it deep into the playoffs.
The Rams reached the Class 1A semifinals a year ago, a year after winning the 1A state championship. The Rams made it to the semifinals in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and reached the state championship game in 2011. While in 2A, West St. John was a quarterfinal team in 2015 and 2016.
The Rams also won state titles in 1993, 2003 and 2004.
Head coach Brandon Walters has done an outstanding job since taking over the program in 2015. He will have to overcome the graduation of key players, none more important than Kylan Duhe and Niko Roy, who were simply superb.
“This is a job with high expectations,” Walters said. “They have always been through the roof. The fans are like Saints, Eagles or Raiders fans. They are passionate about their team and want to win, the good, the bad and the ugly. You hear it all but it is a joy. It keeps you on your toes to prepare each and every week to put on a show. I played for Eddie Robinson and he always told us to go out and put on a show. I tell the kids they are representing their families, their friends, the community and the fans.”
West St. John will be very good once again in 2019.
The Rams return 17 starters, including eight on offense and nine on defense.
Senior D’Andre Guadia (6-0, 180) returns to start for a third year at quarterback. Guadia passed for 1,702 yards and 13 touchdowns and he rushed for 222 yards and two scores as year ago.
“It helps to have a quarterback for three years starting for you,” Walters said. “D’Andre and the receiving corps are back and have good communication. The maturity level is definitely there. He is battle-tested. He led us back from 17 points down at Logansport a year ago.”
Senior Wantrell Williams (5-11, 185) is a returning starter and should be good at running back. He will be joined by Keajean Kindrick (5-2, 140). Williams rushed 24 times for 262 yards and three touchdowns and had 32 tackles and three interceptions on defense. A two-time All-State player, Williams has offers from Southern Miss, ULM and Grambling.
“Wantrell will carry a larger load with bigger shoes to fill not having Duhe and Niko here,” Walters said. “That is a big hole to fill. Wantrell has speed. Kaejean is very speedy. We want to spread the touches around a bit this year. We will still be able to run it well.”
The wide receivers position is a real strength, with three returning senior starters in Carrington Clark (5-11, 170), Trenton Grow (6-3, 185) and Aaron Moll (6-2, 180). A two-time All-State performer, Grow had 27 catches for 419 yards and three touchdowns offensively and added 31 tackles and five interceptions on defense last season. He has multiple college offers. Clark had 29 catches for 521 yards and five touchdowns.
“The receiving position is a strength of our team,” Walters said. “This is a group of guys that can all make plays from anywhere on the field. They have great experience.”
The offensive line has three starters back, including senior center Corbert Jackson (5-10, 244), senior tackle Jalen Walker (6-0, 265) and junior guard Dyran Cook (6-2, 285), an All-State player last year. Sophomore guard Jacob Ellis (6-1, 235) and sophomore tackle Jakobe Lewis (6-0, 220) are the other starters.
“Dyran and Jackson are very good players and Walker is a returning starter,” Walters said. “Ellis and Lewis are promising players. Jacob played more on defense last year at tackle. We will move guys around to both sides of the ball, as usual.”
The defense is very experienced with nine starters returning.
Up front, three talented sophomores with great futures return to start, including end Kailep Edwards (6-1, 235), along with tackles Jason August (5-11, 245) and Ellis. The fourth starter is Lewis. Edwards had 44 tackles, including 12 sacks a year ago. He has offers from Mississippi State and Lamar.
“Edwards and August are very good for us,” Walters said.
Both starters return at linebacker, including senior Zyron Wilson (6-1, 260) and Antoine Carter (5-10, 190). Wilson had 54 tackles, including 11 for loss and he recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. He was an All-Metro player last year. Carter had 42 tackles last year. Blaine Morris
“Wilson is special,” Walters said. “Carter is a returning starter who did really well for us last year. He plays well in space. He may play some offense as well.”
The secondary is strong as well with four players who started games a year ago on hand. That includes a trio of seniors in corners Amaj Louis (5-9, 165) and Dayton King (5-10, 185), along with free safety D’Kyri Jackson (5-9, 175). Junior safety Jayden Hamilton (5-9, 165) also returns while the new starter is sophomore strong safety Devin Hall (5-9, 155). Jackson had 32 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and forced two fumbles last season.
“Dayton and Louis are solid,” Walters said. “We will rotate a lot of other guys in the deep. We play them in different spots and match our defenders against the opposition we face, looking for the best matchups. We have versatility to do so.”
The kicker is Corbert Jackson while the punter is Grow.
The schedule opens at home against traditional rival St. James on Sept. 6 at Dinvault Stadium before the Rams face a four-game road trip beginning at Joe Yenni Stadium against Riverdale, to New Orleans to take on Lusher, to Plaquemine and to Salmen. Before Salmen, the Rams host McDonogh 35.
“It is a challenging pre-district schedule and that is how we want it,” Walters said.
District 8-1A action opens with a huge game at home against Country Day on Oct. 18 before an open date. Week nine has the Rams at home against Riverside Academy and the regular season concludes in Metairie at St. Martin’s Episcopal.
“Country Day is very good and has a really good quarterback,” Walters said. “Riverside is a long-time rival of ours. We are playing tough teams but that will make us better.
With an experienced, talented team, West St. John has a real shot at returning to glory in December this season.
“We still have a bad taste in our mouth with the way our season ended at Oak Grove last year in less than ideal playing conditions,” Walters said. “We want to erase that. The future looks bright for us.”
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