By Tate Roussel
Big plays on offense by East St. John and a Wildcat defense that held Hahnville to 173 yards while forcing three turnovers, enabled ESJ to take a 21-7 win over the Tigers in District 7-5A action Friday night in Boutte.
“We haven’t played our best football all year. I told our guys to come in and let’s play a good football game tonight – and I think we did,” East St. John coach Brandon Brown said.
Defense dominated first half of play for both teams, as each team turned the ball over on downs inside the opponent’s red zone. Hahnville failed on two such attempts and the Wildcats once.
It appeared that both teams were on their way to a first half shutout until the Wildcats pulled through with two quick scores.
The first came when quarterback Sean Shelby connected with Dontae Fleming for a 37-yard score. A missed extra point attempt gave the Wildcats a 6-0 lead with 1:37 left in the second quarter.
Shelby would finish the night completing 16 of 25 attempts for 198 yards and two touchdowns. A majority of the yards going to Fleming, who had seven catches for 119 yards.
Just 24 seconds later, the Wildcats found the end zone again. This time, it was the work of the East St. John defense. Kendrell Holmes intercepted the ball at the Tiger 48-yard line and brought it all the way back to the end zone for a touchdown that extended the lead.
A successful two-point conversion pass by Shelby would send the Wildcats to the break with a 14-0 lead.
Injuries would also contribute to the Tigers’ offensive struggles, as junior running back Brandon Comardelle went down with a back injury at the five-minute mark of the second quarter that left the Tigers without their leading rusher.
“The only guy that can score for us is 5 (Comardelle), and when he went out it was over,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “He’s probably going to miss a couple of weeks.”
The Tigers were finally able to capitalize on an opportunity when their defense picked off Shelby’s pass and returned it 30 yards into Wildcat territory.
Three plays later, Jha’quan Jackson scored on a 17-yard rush for the Tigers’ first points of the night, cutting the deficit to 14-7.
The Wildcats were quick to respond to return with an eight-play drive to extend the lead back to two possessions.
Wildcat running back Pershing Tony, who led all rushers with 83 yards, broke through for a 35-yard run to set the Wildcats up at the Tiger 20-yard line.
Shelby connected with tight end Hoxie Brown for a 23-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with slightly less than six minutes remaining in the game.
Hahnville, needing a score to stay in the game, was thwarted in its attempt when East St. John defensive back Jarius Monroe intercepted a pass to seal the victory for the Wildcats.
“The challenge all week was to just focus on us. Let’s clean up the mistakes that we’re making, and let’s go out and play football. I think we went out and did that tonight,” Brown said.