There’s no going back for the East St. John Wildcats.
First-year Wildcats coach Brandon Brown spoke earlier in the week of his team’s need to win Friday night at South Lafourche in order to finish 5-5 and not take a step back in terms of seasonal wins from a year ago.
East St. John did that in grand fashion with a 50-0 blanking of the South Lafourche Tarpons in Galliano.
The non-district victory allowed East St. John to finish at the break-even mark. Going into the game holding the No. 30 seed in the Class 5A power ratings, the Wildcats likely secured a spot in the playoffs.
“When you take over a program, you never want to go back. The program was 5-5 last year and we wanted to finish at least 5-5. We had expectations of doing better. We dropped some games early-on, but you can’t cry over spilled milk. We just had to finish strong. We’ve been in playoff mode since the Hahnville game. We knew we had to win out to get a chance to be in the playoffs, Brown said.
South Lafourche closed the 2018 season at 2-8.
Special teams played a big, early role as the Wildcats jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead.
A bad snap while in punt formation for the Tarpons gave East St. John the ball at South Lafourche 13.
A holding call backed up the Wildcats before quarterback Sean Shelby tossed 20 yards to Dontae Fleming and a quick 6-0 lead.
South Lafourche was forced to punt again from deep in its own territory at the Tarpons’ 16. This time, the Wildcats blocked the kick and recovered in the end zone to give ESJ a 13-0 lead at the 5:38 mark of the opening quarter.
“We saw early-on that we could take advantage of their punt team. We tried to attack that early-on and we had success early. We got to a point where we kind of backed off. I thought we could have blocked just about every time they punted the football, but once you get a comfortable lead, we didn’t want to try and embarrass those guys,” said Brown.
An 18-yard pass from Shelby to tight end Hoxie Brown six seconds into the second quarter extended the Wildcats’ lead to 20-0.
After a 2-yard Pershing Toney run made it 27-0, Shelby scrambled on fourth-and-6 from the South Lafourche 9-yard line and found the end zone with only six seconds remaining before halftime to make it 34-0 at the break.
The Tarpons attempted an onside kick to open the second half. The ploy backfired when East St. John’s Shawn Sterling came up with the ball cleanly and raced 52 yards for a touchdown and a 40-0 lead.
“That’s something we practiced all week in practice. We worked on every kind of situation in practice, trick plays and everything. When the opportunity presented itself, our guys were ready for it. Shawn Sterling did an excellent job and returned it for a touchdown,” said.
A 37-yard Alex Reyes field goal extended the Wildcats’ lead to 43-0 at the 4:07 mark of the third quarter.
The game’s final score came at the 10:34 mark of the fourth quarter on an 18-yard quarterback draw by Marcus Jackson to account for the 50-0 final.
East St. John’s win could lift the Wildcats a few steps in terms of playoff seeding, with an opponent yet to be determined.
“Everyone is 0-0. We will clean up some mistakes we made and continue with that positive momentum for later on. We’ve been playing well lately and we just want to continue that,” said Brown.