Non-Select Division III Championship Preview: St. James vs. Union Parish

by Hunter Bower // Owner

No. 3 St. James (11-2) vs. No. 4 Union Parish (9-4)

Friday, Dec. 8 | 3:30 p.m. | Caesars Superdome | New Orleans, LA
Tickets | Watch – NFHS Network ($)

Distance To New Orleans: St. James (46.9 miles), Union Parish (313 miles)

No. 3 St. James Wildcats (11-2)

Head Coach: LaVanta Davis (2nd year at school, 21-5)

State Finals History: 5 state titles – 2019 (3A), 1979 (3A), 1966 (B), 1960 (B), 1959 (B); 5 runner-up finishes – 2015 (3A), 2007 (2A), 1996 (3A), 1994 (3A); 1937 (B) 

Road To The Dome:

  • Regional: Beat No. 14 North Webster, 42-12
  • Quarterfinals: Beat No. 6 Many, 40-0
  • Semi-Finals: Beat No. 2 Sterlington, 28-17

The Skinny:

In a dazzling display of determination and skill, the St. James High School football team has orchestrated a remarkable postseason journey, toppling defending state champion Many and stunning No. 2 Sterlington on the road. Their triumphant march has secured them a coveted spot in the 2023 LHSAA Prep Classic, marking their return to the grand stage after a four-year hiatus.

The architect of this resurgence is none other than head coach Lavanta Davis, who, in just his second season, has etched his name into St. James’ storied history. Davis joins an elite group, becoming the eighth head coach in program history to guide his team to a state title appearance. This exclusive list includes legends like James Waguespack, Rick Gaille, Dwain Jenkins, and Robert Valdez, all of whom have left an indelible mark by leading the Wildcats to state championship games.

Davis brings a wealth of experience, having previously steered Scotlandville to a state runner-up finish in 2016. His tenure as the defensive coordinator at St. James contributed to a state title in 2019, foreshadowing the remarkable journey that has unfolded this season.

Keep a keen eye on the field for the stellar talents propelling St. James to glory. Quarterback Brayden Williams, a formidable force with 2,300 passing yards, leads the charge. He is complemented by the dynamic duo of Kobe Brown, boasting 1,192 yards and 15 touchdowns, and the versatile two-way standout Adrian Prean, Jr. Together, they form a formidable trio, ready to leave an indelible mark on the 2023 LHSAA Prep Classic and etch their names in the annals of St. James High School football history.

Averages: Scoring 38.8 points per game, allowing 14.7 points per game

Signature wins: Assumption (Sept. 22); Lake Charles College Prep (Oct. 6); Many (Nov. 24); Sterlington (Dec. 1)

No. 4 Union Parish Fighting Farmers (9-4)

Head Coach: Joe Spatafora (18th year, 153-59)

State Finals History: 2 state titles – 2013 (3A); 2001 (2A) 3 runner-up finishes – 2022 (NS DIII); 2021 (3A); 2020 (3A),

Road To The Dome:

  • Regional: Beat No. 20 Port Allen, 35-6
  • Quarterfinals: Beat No. 5 Bogalusa, 28-22
  • Semi-Finals: Beat No. 1 Jena, 24-16

The Skinny:

In a narrative defined by resilience and the pursuit of redemption, Union Parish High School’s football team is set to make its fourth consecutive appearance at the LHSAA Prep Classic, embodying the essence of the underdog narrative. The Farmers, having quietly navigated the regular season, emerged as giant slayers in the Non-Select Division III playoffs, toppling two formidable top-seeded opponents.

For Union Parish, this championship run is more than just a bid for glory; it’s a chance to rewrite recent history. Having tasted defeat in their previous three title appearances, the Farmers are determined to transform past misfortune into a triumphant narrative. This marks the sixth overall appearance for Union Parish in a state title game, the last victory dating back to their 2013 triumph.

Throughout the regular season, Union Parish faced a formidable schedule, encountering setbacks against playoff-bound opponents. Those four losses, far from being discouraging, served as a crucible for the team, forging their mettle and preparing them for a rigorous postseason. The Farmers, drawing from these experiences, showcased their growth by defeating formidable rivals like Bogalusa and Jena in the playoffs.

While the absence of Trey Holly, a notable presence in previous campaigns, is palpable, the spotlight now falls on his protege, Jy-Marion Island. The talented tailback has seamlessly assumed a leading role, amassing over 2,000 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns this season. As Union Parish steps onto the Superdome turf once again, the narrative may have shifted, but the determination to clinch the elusive title remains unwavering. Fans can expect a thrilling showcase of skill and determination as the Farmers aim to etch their names in championship glory once more.

Averages: Scoring 31.4 points per game, allowing 20.5 points per game

Signature wins: Homer (Aug. 31); Bogalusa (Nov. 24); Jena (Dec. 1)