When East St. John went into its Week 8 game against Hahnville, the Wildcats were 4-3 overall and 3-1 in District 7-5A play. A win over the Tigers would have allowed ESJ to tie for the district lead and solidify its playoff positioning.
After a 27-0 loss to Hahnville and last week’s 28-18 defeat to Thibodaux, the Wildcat are now 4-5 overall and fighting for their postseason lives when they host South Lafourche in non-district action Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.
“It’s a must-win situation. We knew that going into (the Thibodaux game). We are at home. It’s Senior Night and we have to win against a quality football team,” East St. John coach Alden Foster said.
The Wildcats put themselves in must-win mode due to several missed opportunities in last week’s loss to Thibodaux.
East St. John led 12-7 at halftime against the Tigers and quickly gave up the lead in the third quarter. The Wildcats regained the lead 18-15 but would not score again. ESJ had chances but interceptions halted Wildcat drives down the stretch, including one at the goal line in the closing minutes of the game.
“When an opponent has its run game going and you have limited chances, you have to take advantage of every chance you get. They were content to run the football after the first half. We had those opportunities and didn’t take advantage and they shortened the game on us and it came back to bite us,” said Foster.
The Wildcats played without starting junior quarterback Dasmain Crosby, who missed practice all of last week with hand and back injuries.
A pair of sophomores, Sean Shelby and Lonnie Ellis, saw action at quarterback against Thibodaux.
“Sean Shelby didn’t do bad at all. Lonnie Ellis came in and sparked us. We had a touchdown (directed by Ellis) called back. The plan all week was to play both of them,” Foster said.
Shelby’s status for Friday’s game against South Lafourche is questionable.
The 6-3 Tarpons like to run the football behind a big offensive line, according to Foster.
“They will run the counters. They will run at you and stretch you but they lull you to sleep and hit you with the big play,” the East St. John coach said.
South Lafourche’s main runner is Corbin Allen.
“He’s the one that makes them go. He’s a big-play guy,” said Foster.
The Tarpons also utilize Jake Galjour and Jeremy Rogers in the running game. Rogers is coming off a 134-yard, two-touchdown performance in South Lafourche’s 30-7 triumph over South Terrebonne.
Guiding the South Lafourche offense is junior quarterback Brock Bailleaux.
The Tarpons defense is coming off a game in which it held South Terrebonne to less than 100 yards total offense by loading the box against the Gators.
“South Terrebonne runs a Wing-T so they loaded the box against them,” said Foster.
The East St. John said he expects the Tarpons to go with an odd-man front against the Wildcats.
“They probably will play a 30 against us. They may play a 40 but they will probably a 30 against us to try and limit some of the things that we do,” said Foster.
Top defenders for South Lafourche include linemen Drake Billiot and Jacob Danos, Rogers at linebacker, along with Marquis Francis and Da’Marcus Caine in the secondary.
The Thibodaux loss dropped East St. John from No. 24 to No. 30 in the Class 5A power rankings for the 32-team playoff field. As teams jockey for postseason positioning in Week 10, the Wildcats need to win.
“There is no rest for the weary,” Foster said. “We are in a war against a good football team.
“If you are able to get a win, that will get you 16 points and that will boost you up a few places because of the quality of opponent you are playing.”