The District 7-5A championship will be on the line Friday night when the Destrehan Wildcats travel to take on East St. John.
Destrehan (8-1, 5-1) is coming off of a masterful 63-8 victory over H.L. Bourgeois that might have been the team’s most complete performance of the season. The Wildcats dominated early thanks to their running game led by Will Matthews. The junior rushed for 123 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. The Destrehan defense also stepped up, forcing three turnovers that led to scores.
The team’s showing last Friday was even more impressive when last week’s distractions are taken into consideration. The Wildcats were forced to forfeit their win over South Lafourche when it was discovered that Destrehan coaches accessed a website and viewed videos of the Tarpons game planning for the Wildcats. Five assistant coaches were also suspended.
Destrehan head coach Stephen Robicheaux, who was cleared of any wrongdoing, was not surprised that his team fought through the adversity and picked up a huge win against H.L. Bourgeois just days after the scandal broke.
“I tell this to everybody – this has been a phenomenal group,” he said. “They work so hard and they put in so much work in the offseason. We even had guys up here working last Sunday. They do what they have to do and they are tight-knit. They are special and they deserve everything that they get this season.”
While an infusion of young talent has helped the Wildcats cruise past opponents this season, many of these same starters were on the field last year when Destrehan just missed making the playoffs.
The team started out that year with a 2-0 district record before suffering three-straight heartbreaking losses. The Wildcats held late leads in two of those games before falling down the stretch. Robicheaux said while those defeats were tough for his squad to handle, they learned from them and worked harder in the offseason to make sure they didn’t happen again.
“I really think last year they learned about the program and bought into what we were doing. They lost some close games last season, but the hard work they put in, and the type of kids we have, has paid off,” he said. “The coaching staff does a tremendous job of getting them ready and they are buying into everything we are doing.”
Though the Wildcats are assured of a top playoff spot this season, one of the team’s goals when the year began was winning the district championship. To do that, Destrehan must knock off a tough East St. John squad that is perfect in district play with a 6-0 record.
East St. John actually struggled early in the season and dropped their first three games to Rummel, Scotlandville and John Curtis. After a last-second, 35-34 win over South Lafourche to open district play, East St. John turned things around and has peaked at the perfect point.
On offense, East St. John is led by Xavier Lewis, who has already committed to LSU. Though Lewis projects as a cornerback in college, he is also an extremely athletic quarterback who is tough to slow down.
Last week against Terrebonne, Lewis scored three rushing touchdowns and tossed two more to lead his team to a 49-21 victory.
“They have weapons all over the field on offense and they present a lot of problems because they are so athletic,” Robicheaux said. “But Xavier Lewis leads them and we have to do a really good job of containing him by running to the football whenever he gets his hands on it.”
On defense ESJ’s Daren Williams, a 6-foot-3, 253-pound defensive end, is a force on the line. Williams has committed to play for Tulane.
“On defense they are big and physical. Daren Williams is a good one and they also have linebackers that are physical and a very athletic secondary,” Robicheaux said. “They will be one of the top two teams we have faced all year. It’s going to be tough because we have to go over there. They lost three early games to good teams, but they have turned it around and are playing very well.“It’s going to be a good challenge.”
While Robicheaux said it is tough to gauge how his team is feeling leading into their biggest game of the season, he knows they will be ready when they step on the field.
“They are so even-keeled. They are real loose, they have a lot of fun and I just can’t get a good read on them,” he said. “When we go to practice they are all business and when we play they are all business. They are just very resilient.”
Kickoff of the Destrehan vs. East St. John game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
|Destrehan senior linebacker RaeJuan Marbley returns the ball up field after recovering a fumble against H.L. Bourgeois.|