A muddy quagmire and one play proved the be the difference in East St. John’s 7-6 loss to H.L. Bourgeois last week in Houma.
Clinging to a 7-6 lead in the closing moments, the Wildcats saw HLB’s D’Keyvion Sanders break free for 52 yard before being brought down by East St. John’s Antonio Sanders. Trevonte Walker scored with 12 seconds left and Rodney Bouvier kicked the extra point to drop ESJ to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in District 7-5A play.
While Bouvier’s extra point proved to be the difference, Antonio Sanders’ effort proved something to Brandon Brown, East St. John’s first-year coach.
“We missed a tackle on fourth down with about 20 seconds left. We had a kid, Antonio Sanders, who ran the kid (D’Keyvion Sanders) down at the 2-yard line. We were playing with that kind of effort on defense. As a coach, and as a coaching staff, we praised the kids for that. We praised the kids for their effort and not giving up.”
In terms of x’s and o’s, there wasn’t much else to gleam from the game considering the field conditions.
“My advice to (the Wildcat players was, ‘let’s just flush it down the toilet and get ready for the next one,” Brown said. “If not, you have a very good Destrehan team that is going to come in and embarrass us if we don’t.
“We are kind of in the meat of our schedule right now with Destrehan, Terrebonne, Hahnville and Thibodaux coming back-to-back-to back. You have to be ready to play.”
While East St. John may be under .500, the record easily could be much different, according to Brown.
“If you look at our team right now, we are two plays away from being 4-1,” the ESJ coach said. “Plaquemine just came in here and beat our butt. McDonogh 35, if we don’t give up the punt return for a touchdown, we win that game. On (Thursday) night, if we don’t give up that one run, we win the football game.
“Although things are not perfect and we are sitting at 2-3, when you look at it on a positive note, we are two plays away from being 4-1. However, we can’t make excuses. Good ballclubs make those plays.”
Destrehan is one of those “good ballclubs,” going into Friday night’s game at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve at 4-1 overall and 2-0 in district while coming off a 49-10 win over Thibodaux.
The best of a good ballclub for Destrehan is running back John Emery, a Georgia Bulldogs commitment.
“He is just a complete back. He runs the ball well. He’s very strong between the tackles. He has the speed to get the edges. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield. In pass protection, he does a good job. There is no flaws in his game. That’s why he’s one of the top-rated backs in the country,” Brown said.
There also is quality talent behind Emery at running back in Kyle Edwards and Ed’Juan Green.
“Those two guys could probably start for any team in the district or any team in the state,” Brown said. “That’s the beauty of what they have over there. They are loaded with athletes. The coaches do a really good job of using those guys. It’s kind of hard to key on just one guy.”
The same can be said of the Destrehan receiving corps that includes the likes of Quinton Torbor, Quincy Brown, Carl Lewis and Joe Washington.
“One of things they force you to do is they make you to cover the entire field. You can’t go in there and say, ‘OK, we’re going to stop the run.’ They almost dare you to try and stop the run with those receivers. Then you say, ‘then, we’ll go and stop the pass,’ and then they will run the ball down your throat,” Brown said.
Providing yet another option in the passing game is tight end Carson Rieder.
“He kind of reminds me of our Hoxie Brown. He’s a good-sized kid. He blocks extremely well. He catches the ball well. He just creates matchup problems for opponents,” Brown said.
Directing it all is quarterback J.R. Blood.
“He does a good job throwing the football and with the zone read. He makes good decisions. He knows when to pull it and when to run. He knows when to throw the football,” Brown said.
Because of all the offensive firepower, the Destrehan defense can be overlooked.
“When you talk about defense, you talk about speed, speed, speed,” Brown said of the Destrehan unit.
At no time was that more apparent than late in the first quarter of Destrehan’s game last week against Thibodaux.
Thibodaux receiver Darwin Davis was wide open when he hauled in a pass near midfield and seemed destined to score. Destrehan defensive back Dontrell Smith took it to another gear and caught Davis from behind at the Wildcats’ 17. It proved to be a touchdown-saving tackle when the Tigers were forced to settle for a field goal, allowing Destrehan to maintain the lead at 14-10.
“One of the things I did see from Destrehan offensively and defensively is they don’t make many mistakes. When they do, they cover up for it like with Dontrell Smith with the effort. They made a mistake and blew a coverage but just with the effort just pretty much shut that drive down,” Brown said.
Destrehan has talent on all levels of its defense, including up front with Noah Taliancich.
He’s the man up front. He uses his hands well. He sheds blocks well.
The linebacker corps consists of Alex Huszar and Dylan Whitted.
“Huszar and Whitted do a really good job. In pass coverage, they drop well. They support well in the run,” Brown said.
Along with Smith, another Destrehan defensive back who had big out against Thibodaux was Champ Cramp Craven, who had a tip-drill interception against the Tigers.
“One of the things that I think will play into our favor a little bit is they are a 4-2-5. That’s what we are so our offense is accustomed to seeing it. However, the speed of the game they play with – those guys play with so much passion over there over at Destrehan,” Brown said.
As Brown reviewed Destrehan, one thing continually returned the to East St. John coach’s mind.
“We will have to play our best ball against this team. I keep saying that, but it’s so true.”