Donaldsonville drops thriller to rival St. James

Kyle Riviere
Jaylin Williams' final pass to Jeffery Johnson (No. 2) was batted away, causing Donaldsonville to fall to St. James, 26-22. Photo by Chuck Montero.

Head coach Brian Richardson and Donaldsonville have wanted to get rival St. James on the schedule for years.

So, when the Tigers moved to District 10-3A and ensured that they would be battling the Wildcats this season for a possible league title, Richardson and his Donaldsonville squad was excited.

On Friday night, it was quite evident why the Tiger faithful was so eager to breathe new life into the rivalry. The two teams went back and forth in a thriller that featured six lead changes and went down to the final play of the game.

Unfortunately for Donaldsonville, 2017’s matchup went in the favor of St. James. The Wildcats came from behind in the fourth quarter to take the game, 26-22.

The Donaldsonville/St. James rivalry was already heated, but the hype jumped up a couple of notches with the way the two teams were playing coming into the contest.

Eighth-ranked St. James came in 4-1, with their only loss coming the week before against 5A St. Amant. Donaldsonville came in ranked No. 11 and bolstering a perfect 5-0 record—their best mark since 2010.

Playing on the road in a hostile environment didn’t affect the veteran St. James squad. They drew first blood.

Midway through the first quarter, they put together a 10-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Shamar Smith to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

Donaldsonville was quick to respond.

Quarterback Jaylin Williams went deep and connected with Ladarius Jackson for a 53-yard touchdown. The Tigers converted the ensuing 2-point try to give them an 8-7 lead.

St. James had a chance to take the lead back a little later when they drove to the Donaldsonville 9, but the Tiger defense forced them to try a 26-yard field goal. Kicker Alex Mahler missed the kick.

Though, they did score before the half.

They put together a 62-yard drive that ended with a touchdown to give them a 13-8 advantage, but the score came with much controversy.

Along the way, they tried to convert a fourth-and-two. Originally, the referees ruled them short, but after meeting to discuss the call, they changed their ruling and kept the St. James drive alive.

So, Donaldsonville trailed 13-8 at the half. They had just three first downs in the first two quarters.

The Tigers took the lead back early in the third quarter when Williams went deep to Acquindus Levy for a 41-yard touchdown to put them ahead, 14-13.

They trailed, 19-14, early in the fourth quarter when Dylan Turner blocked a 35-yard field goal attempt by Mahler.

The Tiger offense fed off of the momentum as they drove 65 yards and regained the lead with a five-yard touchdown run by Jemon Pleasant. They were good on another 2-point try to give them a 22-19 lead with just eight minutes remaining in the game.

But the Donaldsonville defense just couldn’t keep the Wildcats out of the end zone.

With just 1:39 left in the game, Smith hit Dontaz Sterling for a 26-yard touchdown to put St. James ahead, 26-22.

The Tigers weren’t fazed. Williams and the offense moved downfield in a hurry and reached the Wildcat 20-yard line.

It came down to one final play. Williams launched a pass into the end zone to Jeffery Johnson, but the ball was tipped away. The incomplete pass ensured the victory for the Wildcats.

Donaldsonville had a tough time stopping Smith. He went 15-25 for 201 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also rushed for 62 yards and a score on the ground.

Williams led the way for the Tigers. He passed for 223 yards and two touchdowns on just nine completions.

The loss dropped Donaldsonville to 5-1, and it won’t get any easier.

The Tigers will now go on the road to face new district rival St. Charles. The sixth-ranked Comets are also 5-1, with their only loss being a road defeat to 5A East Ascension.