The Destrehan Wildcats proved they are serious contenders for the state title with their 35-21 spanking of a strong West Jefferson Buccaneers team and their game with the Hahnville Tigers could be even easier.
And we say “could be” rather than “will be” because even though the Tigers are 0-3 in district play and have lost three in a row, the rivalry between these two teams is so intense that predictions can be iffy.
The Tigers clearly aren’t as dominant as they have been in years past. And Destrehan has one of its most dominant teams ever.
In an ordinary matchup between ordinary teams, the Wildcats would be heavy favorites. But anything can happen in these grudge games - and yes, Hahnville could pull the rug out from under Destrehan in an upset.
On paper, at least, the Tiger defense - which has struggled against strong offenses - appears to be cruisin’ for a brusin’ from Destrehan’s passing attack.
And Destrehan's corps of defensive backs will likely be the biggest challenge Tiger quarterback Early James has faced this season.
On the flip side of the coin, the Destrehan defense will have to contain the Tigers in the air and force turnovers to blow this one open early.
If the Wildcats let the Tigers “hang around,” Hahnville can - as the team showed in a tough overtime loss to John Ehret - come back late in a game.
Looking at the season as a whole, the Wildcats have allowed 21 points or more just twice while they have scored 28 points or more in all but one game.
This game likely will be interesting for a while, but Destrehan should be able to come away with a victory and remain undefeated for their season-ending showdown with the also-undefeated East St. John Wildcats.
Last week, Destrehan demonstrated how “speed kills” as they scored three fast touchdowns of more than 50 yards.
And quarterback Ramal Ellis is showing that he can lead this team in big games in the absence of Jordan Jefferson.
He finished the game completing 11 of 22 passes for 263 yards, including two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ellis' number one target last Friday was wide receiver Damaris Johnson, who caught five passes for 133 yard and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Edwin Reed also was high on Ellis' list with three catches for 70 yards. Running back Jerico Nelson led the ground assault with 85 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
The game started at a lightning pace. After a short kickoff and a 9-yard Nelson run, Ellis found Johnson for a 56-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. After the Ryan Rome extra point, the Wildcats led 7-0.
The Buccaneers fumbled on their next possession and the Wildcats recovered.
But even though they drove down to the West Jeff 29-yard line, they couldn’t convert the turnover into points. That proved costly as West Jeff scored on their next possession on a touchdown run by Tevin Conway.
The extra point was flubbed, leaving Destrehan with a 1-point lead.
After a Buccaneer interception, West Jeff drove down from their own five to the Destrehan 1-yard line.
But the Wildcat defense held and the Buccaneers were denied a TD. They did get a safety, however, as Nelson was tackled in the end zone on the next play.
This gave them an 8-7 lead with 6:30 left in the first half.
After a free kick, the Destrehan defense stopped the Buccaneers again, giving the offense another shot at the lead before halftime.
And this time, they took advantage.
Starting from the Wildcat 41, Nelson brought the ball to the West Jeff 35 on three carries. Then receptions to Johnson and Reed got them to the 8.
And from there, Nelson broke through the Buccaneer defense and dove for the touchdown. After the Rome extra point, the Wildcats took a 14-8 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Both offenses sputtered at the start of the second half. Destrehan's defense was catching on to the option and Darrington Sentimore, Charles Chiasson and Robert Roy each recorded sacks in the opening minutes.
But West Jeff quarterback Ryan Jackson was able to find Kory Theodore for a long touchdown pass with four minutes left in the third quarter to give the Buccaneers a 15-14 lead after the extra point.
That lead, however, was short lived; 11 seconds to exact. On the ensuing kickoff, Reed carved his way through the Buccaneer return team 78 yards for a touchdown. After Rome's extra point, the Wildcats led 21-15.
But the Wildcats were not done with the third quarter. After forcing a punt, keyed by another Chiasson sack, the Wildcats needed only one play to add to their score. Ellis found Johnson again on the first play of the drive for a 60-yard touchdown to give Destrehan a 28-15 lead after the Rome extra point.
The Buccaneers fought back with a quick drive culminating in a touchdown run by Edward Robinson. Linebacker Chris Richard blocked the extra point, leaving the Wildcats with a 28-21 lead.
The two teams then exchanged turnovers, but Destrehan was able to capitalize on their recovery with a 74-yard drive ending in a two-yard touchdown run by Nelson.
The Rome extra point then put the Wildcats ahead with seven minutes left in the game.
West Jeff still had enough time to get something going, but interceptions by Reed, for 53 yards, and by defensive back Trey Watkins, for 22 yards, ended their hopes and vaulted the Wildcats to an 8-0 record and a 3-0 record in district.
The Wildcats are now ranked number one in the power ratings and would be the number one seed in the playoffs if the season ended now.
|RUNNING BACK Jerico Nelson and the rest of Destrehan’s offense demonstrated how speed puts points on the board against West Jeff.|