Donaldsonville rallies to top West St. John

Chris Singleton
Donaldsonville wide receiver Jeffery Johnson (right) runs away from West St. John's Aaron Moll after making a catch during Thursday's River Parish Jamboree sponsored by Thibodaux Regional Medical Center in Vacherie. Photo by Abby Tabor/Daiily Comet.

It was a tale of two different 15-minute halves for Donaldsonville High during Thursday’s River Parish Jamboree game against West St. John.

The Tigers struggled early, fell behind by 13 points and were shutout during the first half of the jamboree held at St. James High School.

The second half was a different story.

After a 30-minute rain delay, a revived Donaldsonville team scored two second-half touchdowns to rally back and defeat West St. John, 16-15, at the River Parish Jamboree, sponsored by Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.

Despite a slow start, Donaldsonville coach Brian Richardson said the Tigers found a way to battle back through adversity in the second half.

“We had two rain delays. We had a guy go down with an ankle injury and you still finished the task at hand,” Richardson said. “We got after it a little bit more. We had a little bit more sense of urgency. The main thing I was happy to see was our focus and resiliency.”

West St. John scored twice on fourth down plays to take a 13-0 lead at halftime.

For the first touchdown, Rams quarterback D’andre Gaudia found Aason Moll in the left corner of the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead with 6:51 left in the first half. 

West St. John’s defense set up the next touchdown right before half. 

After West St. John’s Jonathan Porter recovered a fumble at the 3-yard line, Nico Davis scored on a 2-yard run to extend the Rams’ lead to 13-0 with 1:29 left in the first half. 

Donaldsonville’s offense used a couple of passes from quarterback Jaylin Williams to drive the length of the field in the final minute, but time expired before they could find the end zone in the first half. 

After two rain delays to start the second half, Williams reenergized the Tigers with a 42-yard touchdown run. He dodged several tackles up through the heart of West St. John’s defense to find the end zone. Jemon Pleasant added the 2-point conversion with a short run to cut the score to 13-8 with 8:25 left in the second half. 

On their ensuing drive, Gaudia faced pressure from Donaldsonville’s pass rush and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Donaldsonville standout defensive lineman Tahj Brown at the Rams’ 31-yard line.

Richardson said it was a much-needed defensive play from their team leader. 

“Tahj Brown is our leader in the hallway and he leads us in the community. It’s his job to make plays like that,” Richardson said. “We’re going to follow his lead. He’s going to take us as far as we’re going to go. He has us on his back the whole time, but once again, we have to be conditioned enough to carry him. We have to carry each other. He’ll put 60 guys on his back every night, but it’s going to fall sooner or later. “

Pleasant put Donaldsonville ahead for the first time with a 10-yard touchdown run. He also scored the 2-point conversion on a short run to make it 16-13 Donaldsonville with 5:22 left.

In the final minute, Donaldsonville was pinned deep in its own territory, forcing its punter to take a safety with 36 seconds left.

West St. John started its last drive in good field position at the Tigers’ 37, but Gaudia misfired on two deep desperation passes in the final seconds to preserve the win for Donaldsonville as time ran out. 

Richardson said the game was a great learning experience for the Tigers.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Richardson said. “We have to get more conditioned, and the backups have to step up. We can’t leave the same guys in every play. It won’t work.”

Donaldsonville will open its regular season with a game against rival Assumption on Sept. 1. The Mustangs lost to St. James, 25-14, in the second game of the River Parish Jamboree on Thursday.

Richardson said the Tigers will have to be ready for Assumption.

“I see they’ve got some big old boys over there,” Richardson said. “It’s a rivalry. It’s right next door, so it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun to get through the first week and set the tone for the season.”