VACHERIE – A game that looked like a defensive struggle through four quarters suddenly became an offensive shootout in three overtimes.

However, it was only fitting that Friday night’s nondistrict contest between the E.D. White Cardinals and the St. James Wildcats would ultimately be decided a defensive stop.

Down 27-21 with the final possession in overtime number three, the Cardinals faced a fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line.

Cardinals senior runner Nik Shanklin took the ball around the left side in an attempt to tie the game, but he was bottled up by a hoard of St. James defenders as the Wildcats preserved the 27-21 win.

The drive followed a scoring drive of the Wildcats (3-0 overall) that saw Demarcus Williams find an open Dontaz Sterling (93 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving, one touchdown) in the corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, to give the Wildcats the go-ahead score.

St. James coach Robert Valdez said his team just does not let the big moments get too big for them.

“We knew coming in (Friday night) that we were going to get (E.D. White’s) best tonight,” Valdez said. “They came to play hard. I am just so proud of how we keep competing. We keep finishing and we keep making plays when they count. That is a great football team over there and for us to finish the way we did was big time.”

It was an emotional week for the Cardinals, who learned of the death of longtime E.D. White coach and teacher Darin Fontz on Saturday. Fontz, a former assistant football coach and head girls basketball and golf coach, died at age 51 after a three-year battle colon cancer.

E.D. White head coach Chris Bergeron said his team played with emotion and fire and handled the tough week very well.

“Darin was a big part of our school and a big part of our community,” Bergeron said. “His last message to us was, ‘Y’all just keep winning.’ We gave it our best shot and warriored through it (Friday night), but we just came up a little short.”

Neither team was able to muster much offense in the first half as the only points of the half came with 16 seconds to play until halftime.

The Cardinals capitalized on a muffed punt by the Wildcats to take control of the ball at the St. James 32-yard line.

E.D. White (2-1 overall) went 32 yards on seven plays, capped off by an 11-yard scamper from quarterback Brandon Legendre (17 carries, 71 yards, three touchdowns) to give the Cardinals the 7-0 halftime lead following Miles Loker’s extra point.

St. James responded on its first possession of the second half as Williams (17-for-23, 175 yards, two touchdowns; 17 yards rushing, two touchdowns) found Shamar Smith (eight catches, 76 yards, one touchdown) in the end zone from five yards out to put the Wildcats on the board. Alec Mahler’s extra point tied the game at seven with 7:54 to play in the third quarter.

From that point on the defenses again took over and held each offense in check.

The Cardinals did have a 31-yard go-ahead field goal taken off the board with 2:19 to play in the game after they were flagged for a chop block. The score remained 7-7 after 48 minutes of play.

In the first overtime it was the Wildcats scoring first as Williams scored his first touchdown of the night in the extra time to put St. James on top 14-7 following Mahler’s extra point.

The Cardinals answered as Legendre scored from 3 yards out to tie the game at 14 following Loker’s extra point.

E.D. White scored quickly with their possession in the second overtime as Legendre went around the left side and out-ran the Wildcat defenders for the score.

Loker’s extra point gave the Cardinals the 21-14 advantage before Williams added his second rushing touchdown of the night from five yards out on fourth and goal to tie the game once again, 21-21, following Mahler’s extra point.

The Wildcats outgained the Cardinals, 317-180, in total yards.

“My hats off to (E.D. White) tonight,” Valdez said. “They played with a heavy heart and dedicated it to Coach Fontz. We made a lot of mistakes but we finished strong.”

Prior to the game, St. James honored Fontz by releasing cardinal, white and silver balloons into the air.