Berwick High School quarterback Reed Gonzales attempts a pass during earlier-season action against Patterson. Berwick fell on the road Thursday to St. James, 45-0, in District
9-3A action. Berwick will continue district play Nov. 1, when it hosts E.D. White. (The Daily Review/File Photo)
Top-ranked St. James dominates Berwick in district contest
A change in routine did little to stop St. James High School from giving a dominating performance against the Berwick Panthers Thursday night.
With torrential rains predicted for Friday, St. James and Berwick agreed to play their District 9-3A game one day early to avoid the bad weather.
While the Wildcats had to overcome some shaky snaps that led to somewhat of a slow start on offense, the Wildcats’ defense was suffocating the Panthers from start to finish.
The St. James offense eventually did find its rhythm behind three touchdown passes by quarterback Shamar Smith in the first half and went on to a 45-0 win over Berwick at Wildcat Stadium.
To say the Panthers struggled against St. James defenders would be an understatement as the No. 1-ranked Wildcats (8-0 overall, 3-0 in district) held Berwick (3-5, 1-2) to just two first downs and minus 4 yards rushing for the entire game.
“We just had some problems with our snaps, but defensively, we did a great job,” St. James coach Robert Valdez said. “We had a great game plan, and we kept them off-balanced. We stayed home and took away a lot of their checks. Offensively, we had some opportunities for some big plays, but our rhythm was off with some bad snaps. But we had some things we wanted to do and work on, but our biggest thing was coming out fast and setting a tone and we did that. We still have some things to work on, and to be 8-0 and have room for improvement is not a bad thing.
“It was shorter, and you plan to play Friday, but we decided to move the game,” Valdez said. “But there is no excuse, and it is still fundamental football. We just need to fix some things like our snaps. But we have a free Friday night. We have now to enjoy it, and we get back to work on Monday.”
St. James seemed to take an early lead without running an offensive play when Smith returned a punt 51 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, a penalty wiped out the play, giving the Wildcats possession at their 27. Seven plays later, the drive stalled, leading to a 24-yard field goal by Alec Mahler for a 3-0 lead with 8:09 showing in the first quarter.
The next three possessions for St. James belonged to Smith and his receivers as he found three different pass catchers for scores and a 24-0 lead.
Smith hooked up with Logan Gravois on a 31-yard touchdown pass. Then, he and Shazz Preston connected on a 21-yard scoring play with 3:58 left in the first quarter. On the following possession, Smith found Kaden Williams on a 39-yard touchdown pass for the 24-0 lead with 11:06 remaining on the second-quarter clock.
Smith, who also had a 63-yard punt return called back for a penalty later in the second quarter, finished the game 7-of-11 passing for 165 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 10 times for 68 yards and two more scores.
After Smith’s second apparent punt return for a touchdown was called back, the Wildcats closed the first half with a 30-yard touchdown run by Sean Lebeouf for a 31-0 halftime lead. Lebeouf finished the game with 12 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.
On their first two possessions of the third quarter, the Wildcats got touchdown runs of 1 and 32 yards by Smith for a 45-0 lead with 7:20 on the clock.
From that point on, St. James went deep into its bench, but its defense remained stout as Berwick managed just 20 yards of offense compared to 346 by the Wildcats.
“Hats off to them, and they are a talented group and there is a good reason why they are No. 1 in the state right now,” Panthers coach Mike Walker said. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively. We had a few stops defensively, but we couldn’t capitalize offensively.
“It was a miracle that we held them to 45, because they are fast,” Walker added. “When you watch them on film, they are fast, and on the carpet, they are much faster. Anytime you prepare to play on Friday and you move it up, it isn’t ideal, but both teams had to deal with it so no excuses either way.
Berwick will return to action Nov. 1 when it hosts E.D. White in District 9-3A action.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Renois is a sports correspondent for The Houma Courier. Additional reporting by Review Sports Editor Geoff Stoute.