Wildcat defense must win war in trenches to slow down Tiger run game
All you have to do is look at a bizarre series of plays late in the second quarter last week that catapulted Bonnabel into the lead. With the Bruins trailing 14-6, quarterback Ryan Evans lofted a ball in the direction of his go-to target, Troy Lilly. Destrehan's defensive back made a play at the ball, but it bounced off his chest and into the hands of Lilly for a 26-yard touchdown.
That score cut the Wildcat lead to 14-12 with only 28 seconds left in the half.
Instead of kneeling the ball and heading into halftime with the lead, the Wildcats tried to get some points on the board in the final seconds. Sophomore quarterback Donovan Isom threw a Hail Mary as the time clicked off the clock, but the ball was intercepted at the Bonnabel 15-yard line by Corey Williams.
Williams turned upfield and got 12 yards before the ball was stripped from his hands. However, teammate Arthur Maulet scooped it up and flew 73 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Bonnabel took an 18-14 lead that they never relinquished.
"I’m kicking myself in the tail," Destrehan head coach Chris Stroud said. "They get a play where it looks like we have an interception in the end zone but they get a big touchdown out of it. Then, instead of taking a knee, that fluke play ends the half with a touchdown for them.
"It was real tough for the guys to overcome. We tried to settle them down in the second half but Bonnabel made some adjustments on defense. We just let them get back into the game."
The Wildcats looked sharp to open the game, scoring on their first drive after a 26-yard touchdown run by Kevin Smith only two minutes into the game.
But Bonnabel came right back on their first offensive series. Quarterback Roy Bauer connected with Lilly for a 43-yard gain to the Destrehan 17-yard line. Though a penalty moved Bonnabel back to the 27, they would eventually score on Bauer’s 15-yard touchdown toss.
Destrehan blocked the extra point to remain in front 7-6 with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats increased their lead a few minutes later while facing 4th and 5 from their own 34. Smith took the handoff, ran around the left end and sped 34-yards for his second touchdown of the game. That score put the Wildcats on top 14-6 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats wouldn’t score again.
"The first two drives looked good an on our next two drives we moved the ball well but made mistakes down inside the 30," Stroud said. "The wind was blowing in our face and it would have been a difficult field goal both times so we went for it on fourth down. They were both tough calls and we didn’t convert either fourth down."
Again, Stroud said his defense did enough for his team to win.
"They played their tails off," he said. "They made some mistakes but I have to tip my hat to them because they played so hard."
Coaches always say that the next game on the schedule is the most important one, but in Destrehan’s case it really is. The Wildcats have now lost seven-straight games and will not make the postseason. However, they have the chance to end the season on a high note by beating rival Hahnville.
The Tigers are currently 5-4 on the season but are tied for first in district play at 3-1. While the game is big for Destrehan, the Tigers also need a win to guarantee not only at least a tie for a district championship, but a playoff appearance.
Stroud said his defense will have to control the line of scrimmage to slow down the Hahnville running game.
"They run the ball well and run it right at you," he said. "They have two good backs in (Ernest) Thompson and (Travis) Faucheaux and their quarterback (Easton) Melancon does a good job of running their offense and not making any mistakes."
Stroud said that Hahnville’s offensive line has also improved from the beginning of the season.
"And their defense has been really good all season," he said.
Stroud said his team has a chance to pull off the upset, but that his players are a little down because of their recent string of tough losses. Out of Destrehan’s last seven defeats, two of them came in overtime and all of them were relatively close.
"We have a chance to play with (Hahnville) but our kids are down a bit," he said. "Hopefully playing in this rivalry will get them back up."
The game is one of the top rivalries in the state and Stroud said it shows just how special St. Charles Parish is.
"All of the kids have played Pee Wee ball against each other…they know each other," he said. "What makes this parish so special is that for one night there is a battle, but then we become St. Charles Parish again."
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