The showdown between unbeaten Destrehan and East St. John was supposed to be a thriller. It turned out to be one only if one was an East St. John fan as the Wildcats of black and yellow churned out a 42-7 victory over Destrehan.
As East St. John took the district title, Destrehan fell to 9-1 and settled for a fifth seed in the state playoffs. Usually being the fifth seed gives a team an easy first round game.
But the Wildcats had the misfortune of drawing the Dutchtown Griffins, who are 5-5 only because they were forced to forfeit four early-season wins because of an ineligible player. So, in effect, as a reward for being the fifth best team in the state, Destrehan will face a 9-1 team in the first round of the playoffs. And if that was not enough, if the Wildcats and cross-parish rival Hahnville both win the first round, they play each other in the second round.
Dutchtown's only real loss came against 10-0 Baton Rouge Catholic. The Griffins are a team built a lot like East St. John with an extremely strong running game, a decent passing game and a solid defense that does not allow a lot of points.
That running game is led by Kelvin York and Eddie Lacy who both had milestones in the last couple of games for the season. York eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark while Lacy set the school record for career touchdowns. If Destrehan cannot contain these two backs, they will have to score a lot of points on offense to make up for it.
The Wildcats can score on Dutchtown, who have likely not faced an opponent other than Baton Rouge-Catholic with as much speed as Destrehan does on offense. But the Wildcats need to convert on their opportunities to score. In the East St. John game, the Wildcats failed to score twice within the East St. John 10-yard line. For the Wildcats to be successful they will need to establish the running game to open up the field for Ellis to connect with Edwin Reed, Damaris Johnson and Tim Molton.
The Wildcats will be able to handle the Griffins' passing attack, but the running game will be the deciding factor. If Destrehan can stop them, they should win by two or more touchdowns. If they cannot, it will be an offensive shootout.
In last Friday's 42-7 loss to the East St. John Wildcats, Destrehan allowed over 30 points for the first time this season. They were also held to single digits in points for the first time this season.
The bright spot for the Wildcats of garnet and gray was wide receiver Damaris Johnson who caught 10 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Ramal completed 12 of 26 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown while running back Jerico Nelson had 15 carries for 98 yards.
Things did not start off so bad for Destrehan. On East St. John's first drive, defensive back Trey Watkins intercepted a Johnnie Thiel pass and returned it 49 yards to the East St. John four-yard line, giving Destrehan a shot at drawing first blood. But then things turned sour. After three plays and a penalty, the Wildcats could not find the endzone and a 20-yard field goal attempt was missed.
East St. John responded with an 80-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown run by Johnny Owen who had 241 yards rushing against Destrehan on Friday.
After another long drive and touchdown by East St. John, Destrehan put together a drive that crossed midfield after two completions to Johnson and a good run by Nelson. However, two penalties and three incompletions followed, forcing Destrehan to turn the ball over on downs.
And East St. John took advantage again, scoring this time on a 14-yard run by Thiel to bring the score to 21-0, which was the score that ended the first half.
Several times in close games this season, Destrehan has come out on fire in the second half. This time it seemed that would be the case again when the Destrehan defense, supported by a sack from defensive lineman Dwayne Dewey, forced East St. John to punt on their first drive. Destrehan followed with a drive from their own 23-yard line to the East St. John eight. It was spearheaded by four Nelson runs and a Johnson reception, but a sack on fourth down at the eight ended Destrehan hopes of scoring again.
And just as in previous failed scoring attempts, East St. John made them pay, this time with a 76-yard Owen touchdown run that made the score 28-0 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Destrehan offense then stalled out on its next two drives while East St. John scored twice, both on Owen runs bringing the score to 42-0.
It was then that the Destrehan offense finally found the endzone. After two penalties pushed then back to their own 22-yard line, Ellis found Johnson twice to get to the 40. Then Nelson took them across midfield with an 11-yard run. From there, Ellis connected with Johnson on a deep route that found him wide open for a 51-yard touchdown. The Rome extra point then made it 42-7 with half of the fourth quarter left.
Destrehan had one more chance to score but a penalty ended their hopes of salvaging another touchdown, and the East St. John Wildcats took the victory, the district title and an undefeated season.
With Watkins' interception he tied with Darrow Barnes and Joshua Victorian for the season lead with four interceptions each. Johnson finishes the regular season as the team's leading receiver with 46 receptions for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nelson finishes with 860 yards and 13 touchdowns on 146 carries.
|LONG NIGHT. Destrehan Wildcats met their match - and then some - at East St. John.|