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East St. John Wildcats need to win to keep playoff hopes in reach

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  • George Becnel
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  • November 01, 2018 - 6:12pm

File photosAfter finally getting a home win last week, East St. John coach Brandon Brown wants to 'Back Up Airline,' when the Wildcats play at Joe Keller Stadium.

East St. John coach Brandon Brown would like nothing better than to see a traffic jam on Airline Highway near Joe Keller Stadium on football Friday nights.

“We talk about BUA – Back Up Airline,” Brown said. “Year’s past, even when I played under coach (Larry) Dauterive, we had some really good teams and you couldn’t drive down Airline Highway because it was backed up. We talked about doing that. It’s not easy to do when you are not winning at home. Our community has been great at home, and even on the road. That’s been a goal.”

East St. John went into last week’s game against visiting Thibodaux with a 3-5 record – with all three wins coming on the road. A 48-21 victory gave Brown his first home win as coach of his alma mater.

“It was good to win that game at home. It took some of the pressure off. For myself as a former player here, it was a big deal for me, wanting to win one at home, and we finally got it,” Brown said.

The home win couldn’t have come at a better time. The Wildcats went into the game holding the No. 31 stop in the Class 5A power ratings while Thibodaux was No. 32.

The win helped East St. John inch up to No. 30 and to keep the Wildcats’ postseason hopes alive.

“We have been in playoff mode for the past two weeks,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, we dropped some games early-on that put us in a situation where we had to win. I told my coaching staff and my players, I don’t want it to be any other way. We have to hold ourselves accountable. We know we can’t slip up this late in the year and we just have to go out and play our best ball.”

East St. John needs to continue to win to help secure a spot in the 32-team Class 5A bracket. The Wildcats close out the regular season at South Lafourche in a non-district contest.

“Early-on, we talked about district championships and we talked about all kinds of goals and we dropped a few district games. Now, we will focus on ourselves. We will focus on getting better week by week and taking it one game at a time, brick by brick and focus on the playoffs. We are not really focused on a district race. We are now focused on getting better every day, every rep in practice. We want to perform well on Friday nights so we can stay in contention for the playoffs,” Brown said.

East St. John takes on a 2-7 South Lafourche team that runs a double-wing offense. The Wildcats have experience against similar offenses, having faced Plaquemine’s Wing-T in Week 1 and H.L. Bourgeois in Week 5.

“I’m glad we played teams like Plaquemine and H.L. Bourgeois because it kind of prepared us to get ready for an offense like this in two or three days,” said Brown.

Directing the Tarpon offense is quarterback Brock Bailleaux.

“He’s been listed on the roster as a receiver, so that tells me his skill set is pretty good,” Brown said of Bailleaux. “He’s been moved to quarterback and he’s done a tremendous job for them.

“Most option teams have a really good dive guy, a really good guy to pitch the ball to. The dangerous thing here is they have a really, really good quarterback. He makes good decisions, he knows when to give the dive, when the quarterback needs to keep it, and he also knows when to pitch it. That’s what makes the triple option so, so tough to defend.”

Gaining the tough yards on the ground for South Lafourche is Aaron Vestal.

“He’s their fullback. He’s a tough runner that runs between the tackles. Whenever they give the dive, he’s the guy they give it to. We really will have to keep a hat on him and play sound football. Our guys have to be really be disciplined in their keys,” Brown said.

The Tarpons also feature wingbacks Jake Galjour and Jelby Cheramie.

“They do a good job with the jets sweeps and the toss. They also do a good job lead blocking,” Brown said.

The Tarpons play out of a 4-4 alignment on defense.

“I think we can take advantage of them in our passing game. Our receivers have done a real good job stepping up. They (the Tarpons) are really tough on the run. We will have to open it up a little bit and allow Sean Shelby to be able to throw the ball to some of those receivers and try to create some of those one-on-one matchups,” said Brown.

Although South Lafourche is only 2-7 on the season, Brown said the Tarpons have some of their own incentives to play for.

“They may be 2-7 but knowing it will be some of those seniors’ last game and it will be Senior Night, those guys will be playing extremely hard,” said Brown.

After a 2-5 start, the Wildcats have an opportunity to finish .500 during Brown’s first year as East St. John coach.

“It would mean the world to us to finish 5-5,” Brown said. “In terms of a program, we always talked about not taking a step backwards. Last year, those guys finished 5-5 in the regular season. It may just be a personal thing, but I always want to go forward and not backwards. To finish 5-5, at least we were where we were last year. Now it puts the pressure on us to win Round One of the playoffs and kind of put us ahead of where we were last year.

“I think, overall, in Year One, I think the foundation has been set. We have a good nucleus of players coming back, we could make a real good push and make a real deep run next year."

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.