St. James football looking for redemption
Thu. May 24, 2012 at 4:34 p.m. | By Brent St. Germain/Sports Editor
St. James Wildcats quarterback/safety Shaquille Narcisse goes through spring drills at St. James High School. St. James is looking to rebound after an 0-10 season. (Photo by Alicia Voisin/Correspondent)
12th in a 13-part series
ST. JAMES — The St. James Wildcats have a earned reputation as being one of the most prestigious high school football programs in the state.
St. James has played in eight state championship games — winning titles in 1959 (Class B), 1960 (Class B), 1966 (Class B) and 1979 (Class 3A) — and has been a regular participant in the state playoffs.
But there are times when a team struggles throughout a season, and 2011 was one of those seasons for the Wildcats.
Injuries and adjusting to a coaching change took a toll on the Wildcats and they struggled to an 0-10 record. According to records dating back to 1951, it was St. James’ first 0-10 season.
Quarterback/safety Shaquille Narcisse will be a senior next season, and he said the losing stops now.
“Last year was the first year we had a losing record like that, but all of that is going to change,” he said. “We are not losing again.”
The 2011 season was a tumultuous one for the Wildcats. It started with adjusting to a coaching change after James Bell took over for Rick Gaille over the summer.
Bell said he stuck with the system that was already in place instead of trying to implement a new one during preseason drills.
“All you could do is come in and leave everything the way it was, and that’s what we did,” he said. “Whatever was in place last year, we stuck with it.”
Now, with a year under his belt, Bell said he has been able to implement new schemes, and the players are working hard to learn everything.
Bell said his goal is to be more balanced offensively for the 2012 season, which is a plan the players are receptive to.
“We have a lot of young kids, and they are hungry to do the right thing,” Bell said. “We are just trying to work them hard and make sure they understand what they are doing and how they do it. By doing that, it could lead us to being more successful.”
Defensive back Rashaan Dennis, who will be a junior next season, said getting an opportunity to work with Bell throughout the spring will pay dividends in the fall.
“Now, we we’re able to build a connection with him in the spring,” he said. “When the season opens, the team will be 100 percent ready.”
Linebacker Seth Keller will be a senior next season, and he said Bell has been inspiring the team to move past last season with his pep talks.
“His speeches have helped unite us, and it is changing our mind set and work ethic,” Keller said. “That will help us perform better on the field and be better prepared for the season.”
St. James wrapped up its two-week spring drills last week, working on fundamentals and learning the playbook.
Bell said he was pleased with the players’ overall effort, but there is still some work that needs to be done.
“That’s how you have to do it because high school football goes in cycles,” he said. “Some years you will have guys who are naturally at it, and some years you will have guys that will need to work on their fundamentals. Those are the things we are working with. We just have young guys that need more work.”
Keller said the Wildcats are eagerly anticipating their Aug. 31 season opener against West St. John so they can move past last season.
“It’s going to be a game changer because we went 0-10 last season,” he said. “This year, we will have a chance to redeem ourselves in our first game out against West St. John. It’s a rivalry, and we are looking for a win this year. We will not hold anything back. We are going to go after them.”
Saturday: Covenant Christian Academy