A 21-point surge by Ruston starting in the second quarter proved to be too much for visiting East St. John to overcome in a 35-25 loss Friday night that eliminated the Wildcats from the Class 5A playoff in the opening round.
East St. John, the No. 26 seed, ended its season 5-6. Ruston, the No. 7 seed, advances to host Hahnville. The Tigers, the No. 10 seed, defeated No. 23 Denham Springs 42-21.
The ESJ-Ruston game was tied 7-7 after one quarter before an 18-yard pass from Ruston quarterback Eric Outley to Donald Johnson put the Bearcats on top 14-7.
C.J. Willis, who also sees action at quarterback for Ruston, hooked up with Ray Parker on a 34-yard strike later in the second quarter to give the Bearcats a 21-7 halftime lead.
A 1-yard run by Tahjmalik Samuel in the third quarter extended Ruston’s lead to three touchdowns.
East St. John came up with its first points since the opening quarter on a 24-yard pass from quarterback Dasmain Crosby to Javon Antonio made the score 28-13 in the third quarter.
A 13-yard run by Willis in the fourth quarter pushed Ruston’s lead to 22 points at 35-13.
The Wildcats scored the final two touchdowns of the game on a pair of Crosby passes. The first to Odell Wells from 2 yards out made it 35-19 before Crosby and Antonio hooked up for one last time on a 68-yard bomb to make the final 35-25.
A 36-yard pass from Outley to Ray Parker staked Ruston to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
East St. John tied the game later in the quarter on a 3-yard run by Crosby before the Bearcats began to pull away.
Crosby ran for 45 of East St. John’s 84 yards on the ground. He was 14 of 27 passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
Antonio had six catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in his final game as a Wildcat.
Ruston did most of its damage on the ground, rushing for 223 yards. Outley led the way with 82 yards on 11 carries.
Outley was 6 of 8 passing for 76 yards while Willis was 4 of 7 for 48 yards.