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ESJ looks for another consistent effort in battle with Roneagles

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  • George Becnel
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  • September 11, 2017 - 5:30pm

File photosEast St. John faces a familiar foe in the McDonogh 35 Roneagles and quarterback Le'John Howard (16) on Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.

East St. John continually responded when it needed to in the Wildcats’ 33-14 win last week over visiting West Jefferson.

Perhaps the best response came from Howard Joseph. After the Wildcats saw an 18-6 halftime lead cut to 18-14, Joseph returned an interception for a touchdown to extend their advantage.

“That was huge play by a sophomore cornerback in Howard Joseph. He’s going to be a good one,” East St. John coach Alden Foster said.

Leading 24-14, the Wildcats put the game away with a late 97-yard drive.

“I told the offensive line and I called (running back) C.J. Gardner, another sophomore, my closer. I said, ‘this is what you are here for – to put teams away.’ He made some bruising, all-effort runs, carrying five or six of them at one time. That made you feel good to see growth in your team,” Foster said.

Signs of that growth showed up early in the game against West Jefferson. A long pass play to big-play threat Javon Antonio set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Shelvin Keller. The Wildcats went into the game looking to run the ball, especially with the Buccaneers putting eight men in the box, and seeking to get Keller more involved. The plan worked Friday as Keller finished with three rushing touchdowns.

“They loaded the box and were trying to outnumber us and make us pass it. We just went to an I-backfield and two tight ends and it was old-school football and we were real successful,” Foster explained.

Another positive development has been receiver Cameron Grant developing as a threat.

“He will get more and more touches. He’s earned that right,” Foster said of Grant.

East St. John (1-1) now turns its attention to McDonogh 35 in what will be the second of four-straight games at Joe Keller Stadium for the Wildcats. The Roneagles (1-1) are coming off a 76-0 thrashing of Higgins.

McDonogh 35 is a spread team but the Roneagles also have used two tight end sets on occasion, according to Foster.

“They like to do a lot of different things offensively and their offensive line does a good job of blocking. They are very talented on offense,” the East St. John coach said.

The top deep threats for McDonogh 35 are receivers Lawrence Keys and Jared Myles.

“They both are burners,” Foster said of the duo.

Athletic Omar Spears is a factor out of the backfield as well as in the passing game, said Foster.

Directing the offense is quarterback Le’John Howard.

“He’s a three-year starter. He’s gotten better since we saw him in the spring the last two years,” Foster said.

Headlining the Roneagles’ defense is highly-touted Joe Foucha, who has received offers from many of the top college programs in the country.

“Joe Foucha plays safety but he can play all over. He can cover the whole field. He’s a big-time football player. If you throw it up there, he can go get it,” said Foster.

Other key defenders are defensive back Glen Brown and Jaden Henderson.

“They are fast and real aggressive on defense. They are not very big. They are not as big as they were up front last year but they are real aggressive and they will do what they do and will be where they are supposed to be,” Foster said of the Roneagles.

McDonogh 35 will be the last test before East St. John opens District 7-5A play next week against Central Lafourche.

“It will be a big measure of where we stand. We need to control the line of scrimmage and control the football. With all the weapons they have on offense, you don’t want to give them a whole bunch of chances. We have to be aggressive and match their intensity. I think it will be a great high school football game,” Foster said.

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.