East St. John’s 21-14 overtime win over Thibodaux last week was important for the Wildcats on several fronts.
The win, coupled with Hahnville’s loss to Destrehan, allowed East St. John to claim a share of the District 7-5A title.
After having two wins taken away by forfeit due to the playing of an academically ineligible player, the Wildcats suffered a significant drop in the power rankings.
Yet, the win over Thibodaux allowed East St. John to garner a No. 24 seeding and a fairly favorable spot in the Class 5A bracket.
Although the forfeits cost East St. John a potential opening-round playoff game, the Wildcats are still in the dance.
“I think that win over Thibodaux was very, very crucial in terms of power rankings and seeding. To beat a seven-win team, it really boosted us a little bit. With the forfeitures, we had dropped to about 28 so the win kind of propelled us a little bit,” East St. John coach Brandon Brown said.
The Wildcats will take on the No. 9 seed Central of Baton Rouge on Friday night. A win by East St. John to face the winner of the game between No. 8 Airline and No. 25 Southside.
While there are no guarantees when it comes to the playoffs, if East St. John did not have the forfeits, ESJ could just as easily have been the No. 9 or No. 8 seed, so the potential postseason matchups, at least on paper, seem very even.
“We like our draw,” said Brown. “We said all along we just wanted a chance to play football in November.
“Our key is to be in contention for a state championship. Our guys understand there is no way we can play in December if were are not undefeated in November.”
Winning down the stretch of regular season has allowed East St. John to be undefeated so far in November. Staying that way won’t be easy against Central.
Central is 8-2 on the season with losses in Week 8 and Week 9 before defeating Live Oak 20-10 in the regular-season finale. The losses came by scores of 26-24 to Walker in Week 8 and 55-35 to two-time defending Class 5A state champion Zachary.
Central plays two quarterbacks, left-hander Sam Kenerson and right-hander Connor Cassels.
“They both throw the ball well,” Brown said. “They both are elusive and move well with the ball in their hands. When protection breaks down, they can scramble and get out of the pocket.”
Central is known for having both quarterbacks in the game at the same time, according to Brown.
“They have big-play ability. They like trick plays like the halfback pass because they play with two quarterbacks,” the East St. John coach said.
Isaiah Rankins in a top running threat for Central, which also utilizes Pierce Patterson in the backfield.
Andrew Myrick is a top receiving target for the quarterbacks.
“They are multiple,” Brown said of Central’s offense. “They spread you out a little bit but they pound it at times as well. They will go from anywhere to having four receivers in the game to two backs in the game.”
The East St. John defense, said Brown, won’t be strange to Central’s offense.
“They will be familiar with us defensively because they are a 4-2-5 just like we are, so they see that in practice every day,” Brown pointed out.
A strength of the Central defense is the line, along with defensive back Da’veawn Armstead, according to Brown.
The linemen include the likes of Gabe Patterson, Landon Cleveland and Jaylon Brooks
“I was very impressed with their guys up front,” Brown said. “They have some good size up front. They fly around. Those linebackers do a really good job of filling their gaps and in the secondary, they play a lot of man.”
From an offensive standpoint for East St. John, it’s a matter of the unit doing what it does best, said Brown.
“We have some weapons. I just believe in our guys. I believe we can create some matchup problems. We just have to put our playmakers in the field and just allow those guys to make plays,” the East St. John coach said.
So, what will it take for East St. John to come out with a victory on Friday in order to advance to the second round?
“I think if we are solid in all phases of the game, we win,” said Brown.