METAIRIE – The St. James Wildcats were pretty confident going into the 7 on 7 portion of Alvin Kamara’s Second Annual Youth Football Camp on Saturday at the New Orleans Saints’ practice facility.
“I think it’s a great experience,” said Wildcat Tyler Steib. “The team would like to thank Alvin Kamara for giving us this opportunity. We think we will come out here and compete. That’s the great part about it; there are some great teams out here like Karr and McDonogh 35 and we just want to show we can compete with the big boys.”
The event provided not only summertime work but a competition against some of the top teams in the state.
Along with St. James, Karr and McDonogh 35, other teams to take part in the event were Terrebonne, Holy Cross, Helen Cox, St. Augustine, Warren Easton, Kennedy, Ehret, and Newman.
“Our team will come out and compete,” said Tyrese Batiste. “We have a shot at it. Everyone has a shot. Everyone will compete and at the end of the day, we all will play good.”
“It’s a good opportunity for our team to compete. It helps our team get better on our coverages and it helps our offense a lot. We get a lot of good work. We just hope and pray it translates to the field,” said Tyrin Bastian.
“Only 12 teams were invited from Louisiana. We have to show off our community and all that,” said St. James quarterback Shamar Smith.
What did the Wildcats bring to the event?
“We will put on a show,” said Wildcat receiver Shazz Preston. “We will do the best we can. That’s all you can ask.”
St. James certainly put on a show in pool play.
Smith and Preston hooked up numerous times, especially for touchdowns, as St. James defeated Newman 21-13 and dominated Ehret 22-4.
Games were played on a 40-yard field and a 24-minute running clock. Touchdowns counted for six points. Extra points, with no kicking involved, counted for one point from 5 yards out and two points from 10 yards out.
Defensive stops were worth two points and an interception counted for three points.
The games were played on three fields at the Saints facility. Two of games took part outdoors while the third game was played inside the Saints’ indoor facility. Both of the Wildcats’ games in pool play were indoors.
After Sophie B. Wright dropped out earlier Saturday morning, the event was left with an odd number of teams. By virtue of its early play, St. James earned an opening-round bye when the format switched to a single-elimination bracket format.
“In pool play, we did a great job. I think we had a lot of energy. We came out with a lot of enthusiasm. I think we started off fast in both games. This is that type of thing. You only get 24 minutes. Psychologically, you want to start fast, move the ball and score first and put the pressure on the other team,” St. James coach Robert Valdez.
St. James drew Terrebonne as its opponent in bracket play. The Tigers, after having lost both of their games in pool play, advanced through the bracket by eliminating St. Augustine.
Terrebonne led 10-9 early before pulling away against St. James, which was playing outdoors in the 90-plus degree heat for the first time. Leading by one, the Tigers went on to add points on four-straight possessions on a pair of interceptions and two touchdowns to lead 29-9 before St. James added the game’s final touchdown.
After Terrebonne defeated McDonogh 35 in the semifinals, the Tigers advanced to the championship game, falling to Warren Easton.
“We came out here in bracket play against a team that we knew well, and all of a sudden, it’s like we forgot what we were supposed to be doing,” said Valdez. “The interception early on puts you down 3-0. Then overthinking comes into play.
“This is where we have to start to try and eliminate that early on June 1. Hopefully, we can overcome that when it comes to playing for keeps.”
After the impressive start in pool play, the Wildcats, Valdez said, didn’t so some of the basic things well against Terrebonne.
“It’s pitch and catch,” the St. James coach said. “We didn’t catch the ball well. We didn’t stop them from catching the ball well. We made some mistakes throwing the ball.”
Now, it’s time to move on.
“We need to pretend like it’s a real wrinkled sheet. You really have to put that iron on and knock out those wrinkles as best you can before you set the dinner table,” said Valdez.