For a second straight season, it was Destrehan holding off East St. John by the identical score of 35-34 in another “wild” battle of these two River Parish District 7-5A rivals.
In a back-and-forth slugfest, East St. John pulled to within point in the closing minutes on a 22-yard run by Prentice Cook. After the Wildcats were penalized lining up for a would be go-ahead two point conversion, they elected to kick an extra point that would have tied the game at 35. Destrehan got a major rush on the play and Champ Craven blocked the kick to preserve the lead.
“I told (Offensive Coordinator Kris Peters) to get his two-point play ready and after the penalty we just didn't feel confident in getting it, so we decided to kick” said East St. John coach Brandon Brown. “That's on me. I should have trusted my guys, trusted my team and just went for it. That's on me.”
“I like to make big plays, it fired me up,” said Craven. “I just wanted to do that for my team.”
“We were very fortunate to get that block, that was the difference in the game tonight” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux.
East St. John took advantage of some early Destrehan turnovers to build a 14-7 second quarter lead. Running their two-minute drill, the Wildcats scored late in the first half on a beautifully thrown 32-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Brown and the game appeared to be headed to the half tied at 14.
But as time expired East St. John quarterback Sean Shelby launched a pass from the Wildcat logo at midfield into a crowd of players in the end zone. Reaching over a pair of Destrehan defenders it was East St. John's Jarius Monroe who came down with the Hail Mary for a spectacular touchdown grab giving the Wildcats a 20-14 lead at the half.
“(Coach Brown) has been telling us all week 'so as a man thinks, a man believes'. If you think you can do it you can do it, I thought I could do it,” said Monroe. “I was thinking my team needs this and I'm going to do this for my brothers. I saw the ball. I didn't see any defenders, I didn't see anything, I just saw the ball.”
The big plays continued in the second half when after a long run by John Emery to the East St. John 7-yard line, J.R. Blood flipped the ball to a crossing Carl Lewis who sprinted in for the go-ahead touchdown.
While Destrehan's defense was playing well, the Wildcats scored again with seconds left in the third quarter when Blood threw his third touchdown pass of the game a 5-yard strike to Carson Rieder and Destrehan led 28-20.
East St. John answered as soon as the fourth quarter began when Shelby connected with Dontae Fleming who made made the catch in tight coverage, then sprinted in for the score on a 72-yard touchdown. The two connected again on the two-point conversion when Shelby fired a pass to a wide open Fleming and the game was tied at 28.
Destrehan's game-winning drive started at their own one yard-line. Emery immediatley gave the Wildcats breathing room on the first play of the drive with a 40-yard run. The drive ended when Kyle Edwards bounced outside to his right, turned the corner, broke a tackle, and exploded into the end zone for a 29-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“The play before I realized when I bounced outside how much room I had, that if I got that one extra balance at the end that I was going to be gone,” said Edwards. “So I thought, I'm going to take it back outside and do the same steps. I kept my balance this time and used my speed, it was huge. I planned it all the way through, I'm glad I could score that touchdown to help us win.”
Moments after the teams broke from the post-game prayer, coach Robicheaux complimented the East St. John players, and gave high praise to their first year head coach Brandon Brown.
“Brandon's done a phenomenal job we saw it on film, they should have been 4-1,” said Robicheaux. “We told our team they're a 4-1 team, they got great athletes we kind of did some things uncharacteristic of what we normally do but hey, happy we got a win. Hats off to them, that's a different East St. John team.”
“It felt great I look at (coach Robicheaux) as a legend and for him to say that, it really touched me honestly,” said Brown. “To hear a guy like that say those words it really meant a lot.”
Both quarterbacks threw three touchdown passes with Shelby passing for just over 330 yards with Blood going 17-24 for 177 yards.
Emery led the rushing attack with 105 yards on 18 carries, with Edwards adding 55 yards on 6 carries.
Destrehan improves to 5-1 and will host Central Lafourche next Friday.
East St. John is now 2-4 and will host Terrebonne next Friday.