A Week 10 win over South Lafourche earned East St. John a spot in the Class 5A playoffs as the No. 26 seed.
That means the Wildcats have to travel to north Louisiana to take on No. 7 seed Ruston on Friday night. It’s a trip East St. John coach Alden Foster doesn’t seem to mind.
“In order to win it, you have to beat them all anyway. Everybody is 1-0 right now,” the third-year East St. John coach said.
The 5-5 Wildcats take on a 7-2 Ruston squad that has suffered losses only to powerhouses Acadiana and West Monroe, both on the road.
East St. John slate was no slouch, either, and Foster said it has prepared the Wildcats for the playoffs.
“We’ve seen some stiff competition throughout the year. If you go back even through our scrimmage against Karr, and then throughout the year, Plaquemine, McDonogh 35, our district with Destrehan and Hahnville, even Terrebonne and then South Lafourche,” said Foster.
The Bobcats enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and have won 6 of their last seven games. Except for a season-opening 19-10 win at Neville, Ruston has failed to score less than 31 points in any of its wins.
Does that mean the Wildcats will just have to outscore Ruston?
“I believe we will play some defense. I don’t like to have to outscore someone. I never liked that. It has never come out good for us,” Foster said.
Ruston is a mirror image of the Wildcats on offense, starting with a diminutive quarterback in Eric Outley.
“They have the little, short quarterback like us,” said Foster, comparing Outley to ESJ’s Dasmain Crosby.”
Although the Bobcats’ offensive line isn’t particularly big, they do feature a large tight end in Ray Parker, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior.
“They like to pull him. He will be an offensive lineman in college,” pointed out Foster.
Outley and C.J. Willis direct the Ruston offense.
“Outley is their mojo. They have one kid they bring in, C.J. Willis, who is a LSU baseball commitment,” Foster said.
Deandre Marcus, a 6-foot-1, 183-pound Louisiana Tech commitment, is at running back for Ruston.
Grambling commitment Donald Johnson is a dual threat.
“Donald Johnson, their slot receiver, is their big-play guy. He’s a punt return guy, too,” Foster said.
The Bobcats line up in a 4-2-5 defense.
“The defensive line stays low and they come off the ball. I feel that’s their strength,” Foster said.
One of those defensive lineman is athletic end Tahmalik Samuel.
“He comes off the edge. He’s a quick guy and can run. Against Neville, I saw him score a 60-yard touchdown at fullback,” said Foster.
Teams from north Louisiana, Foster said, are generally more run oriented than their southern counterparts, so perhaps the Wildcats can take advantage of their passing game on Friday night.
“They haven’t seen the things we do as much as they will see Friday. Hopefully, we can take advantage of some matchups with Javon (Antonio) and (Shelvin) Keller. It’s like playing against ourselves, offensively,” the East St. John coach said.
Whatever East St. John is able to do against Ruston, the Wildcats will have to earn it, according to Foster.
“They don’t turn it over a lot. They make you beat them. It comes down to us being able to stop the run and not going to sleep on the pass and us doing the same thing offensively. We have to establish the run game but also take advantage of some of the things we have in the pass game,” Foster said.