By Jim Gazzolo
LAKE CHARLES — They had played the gracious hosts for most of the day, and would again at the end of the evening, but as darkness settled on Cougar Stadium the Saints of St. Louis Catholic were all business.
And it took a full night’s work to finally put away visiting East St. John Friday in a non- district game.
Waters from Hurricane Isaac had flooded the ESJ campus in Reserve and most of the players’ homes, but the St. Louis community rallied to pull off the game.
“We could not have played without all their effort,” said ESJ head coach Phillip Banko.
The Saints almost played too good of hosts, needing an interception by Lenny Breda with 25 seconds left to seal a 24-20 victory.
“Had to make one more play,” said Breda.
He had been making plays all night.
The senior caught two touchdown passes and intercepted two to help lead the Saints (2-0).
“We knew this would be a struggle,” said Breda. “They played tough. They have been through a lot, but they came out hungry just like us.”
Still, it was Breda who appeared the hungriest. The senior scored from 45 yards out on a trick play and 25 yards with a conventional throw. Both came in the first quarter.
Blue David, usually a running back, turned thrower on the first score, taking a backward pass and then launching a strike to a wide-open Brenda.
“My eyes lit up when I heard that play come in,” said Breda. “They were biting hard on the first move so I was open.”
The next time it was quarterback J.P. Crawford doing the throwing two plays after DeKeinen Francios’ 72-yard interception return set the Saints in business. Breda finished with four catches for 76 yards.
The third scoring pass came in the third quarter when Crawford hit Andrew Dietz on a 21-yard strike to give St. Louis control at 24-12.
But the Wildcats would not go away. Quarterback Leonard Davis scored on runs of 61 and 80 yards, and Jeremy Piper returned an interception for another ESJ touchdown.
“We fought hard,” said Banko. “We wanted to show the spirit and toughness of our program and we did that. There are no excuses, we wanted to win the game. They just made more plays.
“We will learn from this. We will get better.”
Davis finished with 151 yards on 10 carries to lead the Wildcats, however he was only 8 of 23 for 63 yards and three interceptions.
“I give them a lot of credit,” said Breda. “They came out and took it too us. We had to play the full game.”
The Saints and their fans donated money, food and personal items to the Wildcats, who are not expected back to school for another two weeks.
Even an official donated his game check afterward.
“These people did so much for us, we will never forget it,” said Banko.