Putup or shut up

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; Livonia head coach Scott Allen played the run and got taught a hard lesson.

Then there have been others like Mamou, which said it would reduce the Vidalia offense’s potency and then stood idly by as the Vikings ran for more than 300 yards and passed for an additional 165.

At the start of the week West St. John defensive lineman Tyson Jackson (6-7, 270) vowed to contain Vidalia running back Michael Randall, who put up gaudy numbers (21-228) in the 46-12 romp of Mamou.

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For the No. 2 Rams (13-1), who host the first-ever meeting between themselves and No. 3 Vidalia (13-0) in Edgard at 7 p.m. today, it’s putup or shutup time.

&uot;We’ve got to contain the tailback (Randall) and got to keep the football away from (Vidalia’s) offense because they can score,&uot; West St. John head coach Laury Dupont said. &uot;They have an explosive offense.&uot;

Either way opponents decide to defend the Vikings, they seem to get bogged down in a Catch 22.

If you take Livonia’s approach and set out to hold Randall in check, quarterback Tony Hawkins can go off for 266 yards passing and five touchdowns, all of which came in the first half of the 50-7 bi-district victory.

&uot;(Hawkins has) done a tremendous job at quarterback for us,&uot; Viking head coach Dee Faircloth said. &uot;It’s going to take an exceptional quarterback to lead you to the final game. He may be the best I’ve had, and I’ve had some great quarterbacks.&uot;

Or look to Redeemer-Seton’s ultimately failed game plan in the Vikings’ regional round victory, 23-22, when Randall wiggled his way through the line of scrimmage to score the game-winning touchdown.

Dupont, who was hospitalized most of the week with the intestinal flu, knows his Rams are in for a challenge.

&uot;(The Vikings) run a bunch of sets offensively and defensively,&uot; he said. &uot;There’s not one scheme that you can prepare for them to run a lot. Their running does cause problems. Plus, they throw the ball well to offset you.&uot;

The truth of the matter may be that if West St. John, with its superior size, is able to handcuff Randall, the burden to score lies on the shoulders &045; more specifically, the arm &045; of a cool customer.

Hawkins was under center last year during the perfect regular season and abrupt exit from the playoffs in the second round.

He believes maybe that Viking team tried to do too much individual, rather than being dependent on each other to will a win.

The same mistake will not be made twice, Hawkins ensures.

&uot;It’s not going to fall on just one person,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ve been playing like a team all year long, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.&uot;

He enjoys playing the underdog role about as much as he appreciates how highly Faircloth speaks of him.

The thought of losing, after experiencing the gut-wrenching feeling a year ago, doe not put Hawkins in line for second.

&uot;Last year we didn’t have a bad game all year until the 12th game of the year,&uot; lineman Matt Hinson said. &uot;We’ve had bad games this year, but have been able to come back. Take Jena. We’re down three touchdowns, but we got together and came back.&uot;

It is a characteristic you expect from both of these senior-laden teams. The Vikings sport 17 &045; 10 on offense, seven on defense &045; while West St. John comes in one behind with 16.

From the jump, Faircloth was unsure what starter would assume a leadership role, and has been pleasantly surprised to find a plethora of responsibility.

&uot;They’ve done it by committee,&uot; said Faircloth, in his 36th year with the Vikes. &uot;They really keep their cool and nobody panics. I assume that’s how we’re going to have to be (today) if (the Rams) jump out on us.&uot;

This marks the 10th time in Dupont’s 17 years in Edgard that West St. John has reached the semifinals.

Four times the Rams have reached the Louisiana Superdome floor with their lone state title coming in 1998 against Riverside, the same team that eliminated Vidalia last year.

&uot;This is a special class. Six or seven kids will sign scholarships (to play college ball),&uot; Dupont said. &uot;I feel good about our seniors. I’m not going to come out and say we’ll win, but every coach thinks that in the back of their mind.&uot;

Surely Faircloth is sharing similar sentiments. You have to at this point. Four quarters away from this biggest moment in his players’ young lives.

He knows his star running back currently resides in the crosshairs of every West St. John defender. He hopes his blossoming quarterback will serve as a diversion and help create a balanced attack.

&uot;Everybody always judges a quarterback on how far he takes teams through the playoffs,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;That’s usually the measuring stick.&uot;