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ESJ Wildcats can ill afford to dwell on loss with tough foe up next

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  • George Becnel
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  • October 11, 2017 - 4:58pm

File photosTerrebonne runners Keshawn James (2) and Chaz Ward (3) are two key players East St. John will have to contend with when the teams meet Friday night in Houma.

In all of Alden Foster’s years as a high school football coach, including stints as head coach at Amite and East St. John, no loss was harder to take than ESJ’s 35-34 loss to Destrehan.

“I’ve been doing this for 21 years and none have ever been that bad. We played in three state championships (at Amite) but to have it snatched away from your kids after you win at a hostile environment that we played, it drains you,” Foster said.

Foster’s East St. John squad scored first in overtime to take a six-point edge. On Destrehan’s first play of overtime, ESJ’s Javon Antonio came away with the football after an apparent strip of Destrehan running back John Emery.

Instead of the game being over, the referees ruled Emery’s forward progress had been stopped before the apparent fumble. Not only was the game not over, but a personal foul call against ESJ advanced the ball even further in Destrehan’s favor. After quarterback J.R. Blood hit Carson Rieder with a touchdown toss, kicker Phillip Stratton added the extra point to give DHS the victory.

The loss evened East St. John’s record at 3-3 overall as the Wildcats’ first District 7-5A loss of the season dropped ESJ to 2-1 in league play.

Although it was the outcome, the result may have showed the outside world that East St. John can play with anyone. Inwardly, it’s something the Wildcats have sensed all season long.

“We knew that coming into the season. Every game we have played – even the Plaquemine game was a close game throughout. The McDonogh 35 game was 8-0 until like two minutes in the third quarter. We felt if we could not turn the ball over and clean up our penalties we could play with anybody. We still feel that way,” Foster said.

There is little time to lick any wounds, emotional or otherwise in District 7-5A, as the Wildcats move on to take on Terrebonne on Friday night in Houma.

“In this district, you can’t dwell on that, whether you won or you lost. You have arguably the most talented team we’ve faced all year coming up in Terrebonne,” said Foster.

Like East St. John, Terrebonne is 5-1 overall – its only loss being to league rival Hahnville.

“They have size and athletes. They have a bunch of weapons on offense,” Foster said of the Tigers.

Terrebonne’s offense is guided by elusive quarterback Ja’khi Douglas

“He’s back there and when you think you’ve got him, he takes off,” Foster said.

The Tigers divide the rushing attempts among Keshawn James, Chaz Ward and Treveon Johnson. Top receiving threats are Brennon Guidry and D’Jon Scott as Terrebonne runs an offensive scheme very similar to that of Destrehan.

“The difference between the two is their quarterback (Douglas) is probably a little more athletic. He can run faster than Destrehan’s quarterback (Blood). Their receivers are bigger,” Foster said.

The leader of the Terrebonne defense, Foster said, is Cullen Butler.

“The energy guy is Cullen Butler, the middle linebacker. He kind of makes them go on defense,” the East St. John coach said.

Other top defenders include lineman Jace Wagner and linebacker Jace Gatlin.

“They will do a lot of stunting and blitzing. They are going to slant. They will slant just about every play and they will send at least one linebacker every play. It’s just a matter of following your rules and do what you are supposed to to pick up those blitzes,” Foster said.

East St. John jumped out to an early lead a year ago before holding off Terrebonne for a 40-37 Week 10 win in a game that basically featured a winner-makes-the-playoff scenario.

Each team enters Friday’s game with one league loss, so the winner will remain in the thick of the district race.

“You need a little help, but the winner sets up to control his own destiny as far as district. If we win this game and then you have Hahnville next week and then some more (district) games after that. That’s the way we are looking at it. We can at least get a share of the district title if we win this game and set it up with Hahnville coming in. They (Terrebonne) still have to play Hahnville. It’s a wide-open district,” Foster said.

There are implications to the game beyond just the district standings, Foster said.

“It’s also a game you want to win because of power points. Now you are start jockeying for position and power rankings and everything. It’s a very important game,” the East St. John coach 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.