St. James head coach Billy Hurston had been constantly pointing to the start of Region VII-AAA play during his team's frustrating 0-5 start to the season.
The Sharks looked much better than their record indicated in a dominating 27-22 victory over Georgetown in the region opener for both teams Friday.
Senior quarterback Chase Smith, in his second start back from a knee injury, led a balanced St. James attack and the Sharks' defense held the Bulldogs to negative yardage rushing as Georgetown fell to 3-3 overall and 0-1 in region play.
"We've been looking at this game - it's our first region game and we had to win it to get our momentum," said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Smith. "All those other games were warm-ups for this game. All we've got to do is win another [region game] and we're in the playoffs."
Smith completed 8 of 17 passes for 107 yards and keyed a Sharks rushing attack that ground out 115 yards with 22 carries for 44 yards.
Meanwhile, Georgetown had minus 12 yards rushing on 21 attempts but the Bulldogs stayed in the game behind a big-play passing attack. Quarterback Patrick Ward completed 11 of 23 passes for 205 yards but threw three interceptions.
The Sharks clearly won the turnover battle, forcing three by the Bulldogs while committing one.
"The difference tonight was they had four turnovers and we had [one]," said Hurston. "You're going to win if you don't turn the ball over."
After the Sharks opened a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter, Georgetown battled back the rest of the way but couldn't overtake the Sharks.
"We just weren't ready to play football tonight," said Georgetown coach Bradley Adams. "We got outplayed, out-coached all the way through. I never thought I'd be saying that but we did tonight. We just took it on the chin ... and we've got to get better from it, we've got to learn a lesson from it."
After taking a 17-7 halftime lead, St. James held the Bulldogs to three-and-out on the first possession of the second half and promptly increased their lead with a short 4-play, 41-yard scoring drive. Smith tossed his third touchdown of the game with a 30-yard fade to Caleb Duggan, putting the Sharks up 24-7 with 8:39 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs' rally started on a 69-yard kickoff return by Tucker which set the Bulldogs up for a 32-yard field goal by Jackson Britt, cutting the lead to 24-10 midway through the third quarter.
Just over two minutes later, Georgetown was in the end zone when Ward hit Kysheem Muhammad with a 39-yard touchdown strike, cutting the lead to 24-16 with 5:00 still left in the third quarter.
The Sharks gave themselves some breathing room with a 32-yard field goal by Duggan with 3:15 to play for a 27-16 lead.
The Bulldogs then put together a frantic drive behind the passing of Ward, who hit Trey Glen for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 to play, but the Sharks ran out the clock to finish off their region win.
The Sharks opened the scoring with a 42-yard, 7-play drive for a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard swing pass from Smith to Garrett Denson with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
Duggan stunned the Bulldogs with an interception and 35-yard return to the Georgetown 5 three plays later. The Sharks had to settle for a 25-yard Duggan field goal on the first play of the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
The Bulldogs bounced back quickly, moving 54 yards in 3 plays to pull within 10-7. A 38-yard pass from Patrick Ward to Tarik Tucker set up a 1-yard plunge by Julian Lunsford for the score with 11:34 left in the first half.
The Sharks then gashed the Georgetown defense for 67 yards on 9 plays for another touchdown with Smith hitting Carl Buddin on a swing pass from 5 yards out for the score. The Sharks led 17-7 with 7:23 left in the first half.