Transfer James flashes big in Warren win
Sure, for small-school Shoreland, Doneville James could shine in a football game as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end.
The question was whether he could do the same for a Class 8A team in Illinois. A state power with an already-dominant defense, no less.
James, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior, transferred from Shoreland Lutheran in Kenosha County to Warren last spring. On Saturday, the linebacker flashed his impressive skill set in Warren's 37-0 shutout of visiting Lake Forest.
James intercepted his first pass with his new team and also recovered a fumble, as the Blue Devils improved to 5-0 and 3-0 in the North Suburban Conference with their third shutout in a row.
"It's insane, honestly, coming from a really small school with like 350 kids to a school that has 4,000," James said. "Everybody's work ethic here is 110 percent all the time. If I'm slacking in practice, they get on me. If (another player) is slacking, we'll get on him. The dynamic they have here is a good thing to be a part of."
Warren is thrilled James is a part of it.
"He's playing great," defensive end Seamus Mellican said. "He's just another one of the guys who can make plays."
James intercepted Scouts quarterback Jackson Pearre's tipped pass late in the first quarter, and five plays later Blue Devils QB Phil Hird sprinted 23 yards into the end zone for the home team's first score of the day. Warren had led 7-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter Friday night when lightning suspended play.
Warren extended its lead to 16-0 when Mellican sacked Pearre in the end zone early in the second quarter.
"It's always a race between me and J.R. (Willis Singleton) to see who's going to get there first," Mellican said.
Warren safety Josh Turner forced a fumble behind the line of scrimmage late in the half, and James pounced on it.
"He's a highly intelligent player -- I want to say he's above a 4.0 (GPA) on a 4.0 scale or high 3's," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said of James. "He's aggressive, and he's just a big, athletic kid."
James is someone who's getting more and more comfortable being a Warren Blue Devil and contributing to a defense that held Lake Forest (2-3, 1-2) to 35 yards of total offense and tallied 15 tackles-for-loss.
"When I came in here, I was the quiet guy," James said. "I wasn't as confident, but they got that out of me right away. They made sure."
Derrick McLaughlin, who rushed 21 times for 131 yards, scored from 2 yards out late in the first half and completed the scoring with a 16-yard burst in the fourth. Warren's lone third-quarter score came on Trinate Jacobs' 37-yard pass to wide receiver Luther Thompson on third-and-5. Thompson zigged and zagged down the left sideline for his first touchdown of the season.
"It felt great," said Thompson, who had 2 punt-return TDs against Waukegan in Week 3 called back due to penalties. "We worked hard for everything we did. We've been doing (the pass play that resulted in the TD) every day in practice, so it feels good to come out here and really execute it and get six points."
Warren's defense, which has allowed 12 points all season, did the rest. The Blue Devils held Scouts running back Jahari Scott to minus-1-yard rushing on 15 carries.
"I tell people all the time," James said, " 'You come watch Warren, you might as well come watch the mini (Chicago) Bears.' "
Big pride from the former small-school player.