The first season is over for powerful De La Salle.
The unbeaten Cavaliers have coasted to seven easy victories, unchallenged by any measure. The closest game among the seven was a 20-point win over McMain, when De La Salle clearly let up in the second half.
Now comes the fun part of the schedule.
The Cavaliers (7-0, 4-0) travel to St. James to take on the tough Wildcats (6-1, 3-1) Friday night at 7 p.m.
St. James is coming off of a tough 28-14 loss to defending 3A state champion Lutcher.
A year ago, De La Salle trounced St. James 41-16 at Tad Gormley Stadium in a game that was never close.
The Cavaliers returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns, including one each by Noble Scott and Josh Paul. Quarterback Julien Gums had eight carries for 94 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-11 passes for 63 yards with an interception. Jabial White rushed 12 times for 89 yards while Myles Ward had seven carries for 65 yards and two scores. Fynn LaBreche kicked a pair of field goals.
Gums has been very good this season, completing 42-of-67 passes for 769 yards and 13 touchdowns with just one interception while rushing 49 times for 373 yards and seven touchdowns. Ricco Wheat has 47 rushes for 296 yards and nine touchdowns, Kendall Collins has 28 carries for 276 yards and four scores and White has rushed 23 times for 197 yards and a touchdown. Quincy Cage is the top receiver with 19 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns while Eddie Minor has eight receptions for 155 yards and three scores.
Defensively, linebacker Josh Paul, an Arkansas commitment, is the leading tackler with 28 stops and has an interception, defensive lineman Jamiran James has 27 tackles, including a team best six sacks and defensive lineman DanQuan Edwards has 19 tackles, including three sacks. De La Salle head coach Ryan Manale is pleased with what he has seen.
“I am very happy with where we are,” Manale said. “We broke this down into three week seasons. Now comes the last of those three and we know they will be tough. We look forward to the challenge. I am concerned with how we will respond on the road, having to play a 48-minute game, which we have not had to play yet. The only game we played starters late was against Gulfport.”
St. James quarterback Demarcus Williams completed 12-of-23 passes for 94 yards and two touchdown passes to Dontaze Costly with the two interceptions. Curtlan Johnson had a two-point conversion. De La Salle held St. James to 150 yards of offense.
After LSU signee Lowell Narcisse went down with another knee injury in the spring, Williams was called upon to take control by new head coach Robert Valdez.
“In the spring, Williams had to make the move back to quarterback after Lowell got hurt,” Valdez said. “He has handled it well. We have impressed on him that as the quarterback, he has to be the face of the program. He has matured and is under control but he still has the ability to improve. Johnson was mostly a receiver last year and now is our bell-cow. He has had a phenomenal year. We want to run the ball and control the pace of the game.”
Despite the loss to Lutcher, Valdez remains very positive about his team.
“I am still encouraged by the way we are playing,” Valdez said. “We do not accept moral victories. We played well enough to have a chance to win but we did not win at Lutcher. We want to understand that we have to win those games. The effort was there but we have to play a more complete game for 48 minutes if we want to win against that type of opponent.”
Valdez knows his team will be in deep again this week.
“De La Salle is pretty deep on both sides of the ball,” Valdez said. “They are very well coached and pass the eye-ball test. It is amazing that this district has three of the top five teams in the state. We want to see if we can play that caliber team and win. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Johnson is back for the Wildcats with a vengeance as one of the top rushers in Louisiana with 118 carries for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns. Williams has completed 56-of-96 passes for 887 yards and 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions and he has rushed 58 times for 160 yards and three scores. Costly is the top receiver with 18 catches for 248 yards and nine touchdowns while Shamar Smith has eight catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
“St. James is a much, much improved team and a year older,” Manale said. “I see a true team out there. They lost their leader in Lowell Narcisse but Williams throws a good ball and extends plays. They have talented athletes at virtually every position, especially at wide receiver. Their defensive line and secondary are as good as we have seen all year and their linebackers are very active. The defensive line can take over a game.”
Following the matchup with St. James, De La Salle hosts Sci Academy before traveling to Lutcher in the regular season finale.
“I know that as long as we are focused on this game and not looking ahead, we will have a good chance,” Manale said. “We have to be at our best. St. James had a shot to beat Lutcher. We have great respect for their team.”