The East St. John Wildcats couldn’t have planned to get their first home win of the season.
Going into Friday night’s game at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve, Thibodaux and East St. John were both 3-5 overall, while the Wildcats were 2-3 in District 7-5A play and the Tigers were 1-3.
East St. John entered the game No. 31 in the Class 5A power rankings and Thibodaux No. 32. So, the winner would remain alive for a possible postseason berth while the losing was likely to miss the playoffs.
The Wildcats made sure they stayed in the running by building a 28-7 halftime lead on their way to a 48-21 victory.
“It came at the right moment,” East St. John coach Brandon Brown said of the home win. “We had to win this game. Now we kind of have that monkey off our backs.”
It also was the first home win for Brown as the Wildcats’ coach.
“For me, playing here and being able to come home and coach here, that was a big deal for me to win one at home,” Brown said.
Trailing 28-7 at halftime, the Tigers came out like they wanted to stay in the playoff hunt.
Thibodaux mounted a 16-play drive that used up more than seven minutes on the clock but came away with no points when quarterback Tyren Young was held to a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-goal.
“After halftime, we came out flat and didn’t play our best ball. We had dominated the first half and they felt like the game was over. I preached to the guys, ‘it’s not over, it’s not over.’ But you know what, we gave us some stuff early-on but when it came to crunch time, we didn’t let them score,” Brown said.
After Thibodaux failed to put points on the board on the time-consuming drive, the Tigers scored moments later in the blink of an eye.
Thibodaux’s Cullen Nazio blocked a Wildcats punt and Rimond Thompson scooped up the lose ball and raced in for the touchdown to make it 28-14 with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter.
“We gave up the punt block and that’s just part of the game. We will go back on Monday and clean that up because we have to get better for next week for playoff time,” said Brown.
The Wildcats shook off the punt block and answered on their next drive on a 42-yard pass from quarterback Sean Shelby to receiver Markel August to make the score 35-14.
“We saw that the corners like to bite up on the hitches. I gave him a great ball and my guy did the rest,” Shelby explained.
“We saw it on film that they play a lot of man-to-man and we feel like we can win those one-on-one battles,” said Brown.
Work ethic, said Brown, played a big role in the touchdown.
“I wish we had 70 guys like a Markel August. He comes and works hard every day. When he made that play, one of my coaches in the pressbox said, ‘Coach, that play didn’t come tonight. That came from the way we work every day.’ That’s what you are going to get from kids like Markel.”
Shelby later connected with Alonzo Porter on a touchdown pass and Thibodaux answer with a 41-yard scoring pass from Young to Marquel Price.
Reginald Foster scored on a 19-yard run with 2:08 left in the game to account for the final margin.
East St. John built it’s first-half lead on touchdown passes to August and Dontae Fleming, along with a touchdown run by Pershing Toney.
Thibodaux lone score of the first half came on a run by Young.