Featuring four 10-minute quarters, East St. John’s Spring Game against visiting Ellender on Thursday night was the closest thing to a regular-season game a team can experience.
After East St. John’s dominant performance on both sides of the ball in a 42-6 blowout, the Wildcats likely wished the game did count while the Patriots are glad that it doesn’t.
“It always feels good, no matter whether it’s a practice or a scrimmage to come out with a win,” East St. John coach Brandon Brown said. “Like I really told our kids, we really have to go back to work. At the end of the day, it’s a practice, but the good thing about it is it was something we were able to put on film and can evaluate.
“We saw a lot of great things tonight. We played some younger guys and we were able to get into some real live action. It was a real good night for us tonight and we are glad we are on the winning end of it. I hope it really would count.”
“It’s a scrimmage. It’s a Spring Game. It’s a glorified practice. We didn’t game plan for anybody. We didn’t come in planning against their offense. We came in just working on our base offense and our base defense,” said Ellender coach David McCormick said.
Both coaches said they liked the format of the game rather than a typical Spring Game that features a lot of controlled situational play and perhaps one timed quarter of actual game action.
“We’ve been talking to our guys about expectations. We want our guys to play like champions. What better way than to come out and put them in an actual game situation?” said Brown.
“Coach Brown called up and said, ‘hey, how about we go four 10-minute quarters.’ I went, ‘that’s a good idea. Lets do that.’ When you break down a game, you get a lot of plays in a game. When you do those controlled scrimmages where you only play one live quarter, your one guys (first teamers) might not get that many plays. With the four quarters, we got to play everybody. All our backups got in and our ones (first unit) got some game situations,” McCormick said.
Despite being a total of eight minutes shy of a regular-season game, the Wildcats managed to score four times in the first half and eight times overall under new offensive coordinator Larry Dauterive, the former ESJ head coach.
“He is the mastermind,” Brown said. “He has always done a great job everywhere he’s been. He really showed what he can do when he was here at East St. John. Just to bring him back and have him on the field, he has a lot of knowledge and wisdom.
“The offensive end of it, I really don’t have to focus on it. Coach is real detailed and very organized.”
East St. John’s first half scores came on a 24-yard run by Calvin Gardner Jr., a 37-yard pass from quarterback Sean Shelby to Dontae Fleming, an 11-yard run by Marcus Jackson, and a 20-yard pass from Shelby to Fleming to make it 24-0 in a game that featured no kicking
The Wildcats scored on the opening possession of the second half when Gardner took a short pass from Shelby on third-and-long and turned it into a 69-yard touchdown.
Jackson, in the game at quarterback, connected with Rydell Jackson on a 6-yard touchdown pass to make it 36-0.
The final score for East St. John was fitting for the Wildcats’ defense, when on fourth-and-9 from the Ellender 26, Patriots quarterback Ryan Williams heaved the ball past midfield, which was picked off by Tyrone Coleman and returned for a touchdown on the final play of the game.
Ellender’s only score came when the team was trailing 36-0 with 4:41 left in the game and Tamaj Vergin made a high leaping catch in the end zone.
Along with East St. John’s big-play ability on offense, the Wildcats’ defense was just as formidable. Along with Coleman’s interception for a touchdown, an interception by Howard Joseph with the Patriots on the move helped to set up Shelby’s second touchdown toss to Fleming that gave ESJ its fourth touchdown of the night.
Along with key interceptions, the Wildcats constantly had Williams on the run.
“From Day One, when I took over the program, I let the coaches know that I wanted to put my stamp on the defense. It’s Year Two and those guys understand expectations,” said Brown.
The Patriots, featuring a very young team that had less than 40 players dressed out against an East St. John team with almost twice that many, was simply outmatched.
Ellender will be counting on young players such as Williams, who will be a sophomore in the fall, and Vergin, who will be a freshman.
“We have a lot of what would be sophomores out here and a couple who will be freshmen. We have a lot of underclassmen our here starting for us. We don’t have a big senior class so we are expecting these young ones to come in and take a leadership role,” McCormick said.