When East St. John defeated Hahnville 21-7 last week to improve to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in District 7-5A, it kept the Wildcats’ playoff hopes alive.
“We talked about being district champs and that didn’t work out for us,” first-year East St. John coach Brandon Brown said. “One of our goal also was playoff aspirations. Our kids, coaches, everyone, understands that to make the playoffs, we have to win out.”
“That’s kind of been the mindset,” Brown continued. “Our goal was to just take care of ourselves last week and make sure we minimized the mistakes we had been making that caused us to lose some of those games and we played a complete game. I was very, very proud of our team and also our coaching staff for having a great game plan and keep those kids focused all week.”
In an unusual twist, all three of East St. John’s wins have come on the road.
“We haven’t won a game at home this year, so we need to get over that hurdle. It means to us, not only for the playoffs but also just for our program. We just want to build this program the right way. It’s hard to do when you are not winning games at home. This is a big chance for us to win at home,” said Brown.
The big chance comes Friday night when the Wildcats host Thibodaux at 7 p.m. at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.
Thibodaux is in the exact same position as East St. John. The Tigers, coming off a 33-0 non-district loss to St. Augustine, also are 3-5 overall and 1-3 in district play. East St. John currently sits with the No. 31 power ranking and Thibodaux at No. 32.
“We are sitting at No. 31 and only 32 teams get to go. We know we are kind of fighting for our (playoff) lives,” Brown said.
Directing Thibodaux’s offense is Tyren Young. Young opened the year at receiver and moved to quarterback when starter Luke Alleman was suspended for a game. Alleman was hurt during his return against Terrebonne in Week 6 and Young was back at quarterback.
“We are preparing for Tyren Young,” Brown said. “Luke Alleman had been hurt. In the film we saw of them against St. Aug, it was all Tyren Young. He’s one heck of an athlete. He’s more of a dual-threat quarterback. He can throw the ball well and he’s very, very dynamic.”
He had a group of tall receivers to throw to in 6-foot Darwin Davis, 6-foot-1 Marquel Price, 6-foot-2 Devonte’ Davis and 6-foot-3 Kyren Lacy.
“Not only are they tall, those guys run well and catch the ball well,” said Brown.
If Young isn’t keeping the ball himself, he’s generally handing off to running back Ferronte Miller.
“He runs the ball extremely hard. He’s only a sophomore so for the next couple of years you will have to try to contain this young man. He runs behind his pads real well and he’s an extremely patient runner,” Brown said.
The Tigers play a 3-3 Stack on defense.
The unit is led up front by senior end Courtney Poche.
“Anytime you are playing those veteran guys who have been there a few years, it makes it tough on your guys. He runs around well. He uses his hands well,” Brown said of Poche.
Jaden Harry and J’mari Robertson are two of the other top linemen for the Tigers.
Other key defenders include free safety-outside linebacker Byron McPherson, along with linebackers Hunter Trosclair and Khalil Brisco.
The big play, Brown said, could factor on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats on Friday night.
“We can’t allow big plays,” the Wildcats coach said. “The games that we’ve lost, we’ve given up some big plays.
“On offense, we need some big plays. We have been hampered by a lot of penalties, false starts and tackles for loss. We have to be able to stay in front of the chains and have to be able to generate some offense and make some big plays.”