NEW ORLEANS – East St. John showed a few leftover traits from a year ago while demonstrating what the Wildcats hope to become in 2016 in ESJ’s spring game Tuesday versus McDonogh 35 at Pan American Stadium.
Only three plays into the opening 12-play possession, a pass by East St. John quarterback Marquise Darensbourg was tipped and returned for a touchdown by McDonogh 35’s Rick Riley.
Unlike early last season, the Wildcats showed early resiliency. ESJ quickly bounced back as the 12-play possession continued with Darensbourg hooking up with receiver C.J. Turner twice for touchdowns.
The duo connected on the first play of a red zone possession for a touchdown.
The Wildcats also proved to be opportunistic. In a 15-minute scrimmage to close the spring game, a late fumble set up a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hoxie Brown. A sophomore in the fall, Brown’s score came on the final play of the scrimmage.
Meanwhile, McDonogh 35 was unable drive the length of the field against the East St. John defense. The Roneagles’ only other score came on a 3-yard run by Eddie Tillman during McDonogh 35’s red zone possession.
“Defensively, we flew around like we did in practice. We grew up. We have 10 starters back over there. You have guys that have been playing and you can tell they knew what they were doing,” East St. John coach Alden Foster said.
A dominating defensive effort was led by lineman Miles Myers.
“Miles Myers dominated in the middle. He made it easy because he demanded a double-team,” Foster said.
The teams alternated a pair of 12-play possessions by the first units with 8-play possessions by the second teamers. Each team had a six-play red zone series before the scrimmage conclude with the timed 15-minute quarter.
After the Roneagles’ early defensive touchdown, Darensbourg hooked up with Turner and the rangy receiver broke free to complete a 44-yard touchdown play.
Two plays later, Darensbourg scrambled to buy a bit of extra time before spotting a wide-open Turner open in the middle of the field. Turner sprinted in for the 70-yard score.
“When I saw the green field, I just started running and took it to the house,” said Turner.
No other scoring took place until the opening play of the red zone series from the 15-yard line. Darensbourg hit Turner on a quick slant for the score.
“I just had to get open. They told me to get open and do whatever I could do. I caught the ball and made the move,” said Turner.
McDonogh 35, which lost LeJohn Howard on the opening series of the game, went with Dedrrick Clark the remainder of the way at quarterback, got it’s only other score on Tillman’s run in the red zone series.
In the timed period, a Tillman fumble ESJ the ball at the Roneagle 45 in the closing moments. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Darensbourg spotted Brown in the end zone on the game’s final play.
Along with the early turnover, another aspect of last year’s East St. John team showed up as the defense allowed McDonogh 35 to convert on third-and-long to keep an early drive alive while the Wildcats also were called for several personal fouls for late hits.
“That’s crazy,” Foster said of the personal foul penalties. “That’s what we have to correct.”
Still, the effort was a far cry from a year ago when Foster was beginning his initial season as East St. John coach.
“It’s just a matter of fine tuning. I would rather be on this side of the ball going into the summer than we were last year,” Foster said.