West St. John proves unstoppable for Vidalia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2003

EDGARD, La. &045; No one feasibly tackles Quinn Johnson.

As a defense, you might be fortunate enough to swipe low at his ankles or high at shoulder pads, but wrapping up and bringing the 6-3, 220-pound bull to the ground is not a viable option.

Normally tenacious tacklers appear more like deer glued to a car’s headlights when they see the West St. John freight train barreling down upon them.

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Their only recourse is to absorb the beating Johnson dishes out.

That’s what No. 3 Vidalia’s linebackers and secondary were left with as the senior, a verbal commitment to LSU next fall, plowed over them 11 times for 170 yards in a 33-8 Class 2A semifinal victory Friday.

No. 2 West St. John plays in its fifth final during head coach Laury Dupont’s 17 years in the Superdome against No. 5 Sterlington, a 14-6 winner over top-seeded Northeast Friday, at 5 p.m. next Friday.

&uot;Nobody can stop us,&uot; said Johnson, who for the second consecutive week got the share of the carrying load as running back Patrick Jackson nurses a bruised left knee. &uot;When our running back goes down, I know I have to pick it up. I look to see what my blockers set up and bust it as hard as I can.&uot;

Bust it like chopping wood. It is not as though Johnson is sneaky fast; it is more the wear and tear he puts on opponents through the initial minutes of the game that is his attribute.

It wasn’t until the final three minutes of the opening quarter when Johnson &045; who rushed for more than 100 yards for the second consecutive week after accumulating one during the regular season &045; made his presence known.

A holding penalty against the Rams and an 11-yard sack of quarterback Josh Lumar by Vidalia linemen Chase Clayton and Matt Hinson, put West St. John 3rd and 28 from the Viking 41.

No problemo for Johnson. On a &uot;dive&uot; up the middle, Johnson exploited a gaping hole in the center of the field for a 29-yard pickup, which set up the first touchdown of the night, a 3-yard charge from &045; guess who? &045; Johnson.

&uot;We told him he was going to have to step it up,&uot; Dupont said of his senior fullback. &uot;We knew what he was always capable of doing, but we just hadn’t given him the ball long enough. Once he’s been given the pigskin, the kids love to block for him.&uot;

Johnson, who ran for 108 yards on eight carries in the first half alone, added a 35-yard scoring run with 8:52 before the break to push West St. John’s advantage up to 21-0.

For the second straight season, Vidalia (13-1) marched through its 10-game regular season schedule perfectly only to see its unattainable goal severed in the postseason.

Last year the Vikings got bounced from the playoffs in the regional round against Riverside Academy, a West St. John archival and the team the Rams knocked off for their state championship in 1998.

&uot;You don’t think about that. You only remember your last game,&uot; Viking head coach Dee Faircloth said.

&uot;We didn’t block anybody all night long. I guess they thought we were playing flag football out there tonight. We didn’t execute at all.&uot;

West St. John’s defense, led by 6-7, 270-pound Tyson Jackson &045; yet another LSU commitment &045;made good on a promise to handcuff Viking back Michael Randall.

Randall, who finished with 12 carries for 72 yards, scored Vidalia’s only touchdown on a 20-yard run against Ram second- and third-stringers with 6:29 left in the game.

&uot;The offense has done a great job the whole year and the defense has always brought it up,&uot; said fullback Chris Williams, who added the two-point conversion and was one of 17 seniors who played their last game in a Viking uniform. &uot;We weren’t able to do that tonight. We tried our hearts out, but we just came up short.&uot;

West St. John had only given up 200 yards of total offense twice this season &045; once in its only defeat, a 28-18 loss to 3A’s Parkview, and also in a mauling of St. Charles when the Rams’ scrubs occupied the field.

Vidalia’s usually balanced attack managed just 113 yards via the ground and 25 more through the air, as Viking quarterback Tony Hawkins &045; running for his life most of the night from the likes of Jackson and linebacker Jeremy Moll (6-0, 205) &045; completed three passes on 14 attempts.

&uot;(The Rams) whipped us up front all night,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;It’s as simple as that. They just have a good ball club. They deserve to be in the finals.&uot;