When East St. John coach Alden Foster was asked to talk about Destrehan’s offense prior to the Week 6 battle of Wildcats, the ESJ coach said, “John Emery, John Emery, John Emery, John Emery.”
He may have been tempted to utter “Pooka” four times when talking about Hahnville’s offense – East St. John’s opponent in a key District 7-5A showdown Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.
Anthony Williams has rushed for 1,139 yards and 15 touchdowns through seven games to pace area running backs this season.
“He’s arguably one of the best athletes in the country, not just in the state,” Foster said of Williams.
The East St. John coach, however, quickly pointed out that the Tigers are more than just Williams.
“He (Williams) is electrifying but at the same time, the quarterback (Jha’Quan Jackson) can run too. It’s not just ‘Pooka.’ A lot of people think it’s just ‘Pooka’ but when you watch them offense, he (Jackson) makes big runs, too. He looks just as fast as ‘Pooka’ on film,” said Foster.
Jackson has rushed for 619 yards for a team that is on pace to top 4,000 yards on the ground in 2017.
East St. John enters Friday’s game 4-3 overall and 3-1 in District 7-5A. ESJ is coming off a 36-28 triumph over Terrebonne in which the Wildcats had to overcome a 10-point deficit.
“That’s why you play four quarters,” said Foster. “When they had a big play defensively, our defense came up big and had a scoop and score and that was a freshman linebacker that did that. Once we did that, we got rolling. We had opportunities earlier that we didn’t take advantage of so it balanced out.”
In past years and earlier during the 2017 season, the Wildcats weren’t exactly known for playing four quarters.
“That’s part of learning how to win. It’s a process,” Foster said. “I’ve been blessed with being part of building programs. I’ve been blessed with taking over powerhouses. Everything is a process. We are in the part of the process where we are learning to win games.”
East St. John’s only district loss was a controversial 35-34 overtime loss to Destrehan. Hahnville, which defeated Destrehan earlier in the season, enters the East St. John game 5-2 overall and 3-2 in league play. A win by ESJ could give the Wildcats a share of the district title while the Tigers would be on a path to a potential undisputed league crown.
“Last year we played Destrehan and Hahnville close. This year, we were a little closer with Destrehan and we get a chance to play for a chance to tie for the district championship,” Foster said. “One of the goals of every team in Louisiana is to win a district championship and to win state is the ultimate goal. To have an opportunity to at least tie for first this week is huge.”
While Hahnville has been able to ground out yardage with its running game, the Tigers have struggled throwing the football. Jackson did top 100 passing yards in last week’s 41-13 win at Thibodaux.
Stopping the run and forcing the Tigers to pass will be a key component for the Wildcats on Friday night, according to Foster.
“You’ve got to to have any chance of winning. You have to slow them down. You won’t stop great athletes like those (Williams and Jackson – and they are well-coached great athletes. The way to slow them down is by controlling the ball on offense. They can’t beat you on the sidelines.”
Hahnville’s defense is anchored by lineman Lyncoy Reynaud.
“Lyncoy Reynaud is a grown man. He gave us fits last year,” said Foster.
Joining Reynaud up front are Adonis Friloux and Jalen Singleton.
Hahnville’s top player in the secondary is cornerback Khalil Mason.
“I look for him to latch on with (Javon) Antonio a little bit,” Foster said.
As big as Friday’s encounter may be in the development of East St. John’s program, the Wildcats have to guard against the stage being too big for them, said Foster.
“We will do it like a normal work week and just come out and work and prepare. We feel like we’ve set ourselves up with the things we’ve done as far as pre-district and playing all those tough game to set up a game like this,” the East St. John coach said.