St. Charles Herald-Guide

Wildcats will have to stop physical Ruston rushing attack to advance

By Jonathan Menard - November 21, 2013

After dominating Terrebonne 44-0 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, the Destrehan Wildcats will host a Ruston squad that prides itself on its physical rushing attack.

Though Terrebonne also relies on the run, the Destrehan defense had little trouble stopping that offensive attack in their shutout win last week. The Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter after a 13-yard run by Will Matthews and a 2-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Donovan Isom.

A successful Terrebonne drive in the second quarter was halted after defensive lineman Matt Gunter recovered a fumble deep in Destrehan territory. Isom connected with Matthews on an 8-yard score to put the Wildcats up 21-0, and then Talvin Michael blocked a punt for a safety.

Destrehan cruised from that point on with Isom throwing touchdown passes to Kirk Merritt, Matthews and Alfred Smith to complete the 44-0 win.

“I thought our kids played well. (Terrebonne) tried to do some things early in their running game and had success, but we made a few adjustments that worked,” Destrehan head coach Stephen Robicheaux said. “It has been a while since we have been in the playoffs and I was excited about the way we came out and played well on both sides of the ball.”

Destrehan will remain at home for the second-straight playoff game when Ruston comes to town this Friday. Though Robicheaux said his team has played well on the road, he admits that playing at home gives the speedy Wildcats an edge.

“We beat four good teams on the road this season, but we play with a lot of confidence on the turf at home,” he said.

No. 13 Ruston advanced to face Destrehan after beating Natchitoches Central 35-7 in the first round. Two Ruston running backs – Jawaun Wright and Qayshon Thurman – each ran for 90 yards in the win.

Ruston quarterback Ben Leblanc is also dangerous on the ground, but can complete passes when he needs to. In his team’s victory over Alexandria Senior High last month, Leblanc completed all 14 of his passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

The Bearcats finished second in District 2-5A with a 3-2 record. Overall, they finished the regular season with a 7-3 mark after beating Airline, Rayville, Haughton, Captain Shreve, Natchitoches Central, Alexandria and Pineville.They lost to West Monroe 34-13 and were beaten by both Ouachita and Neville.

Still, Robicheaux said Ruston’s focus on the rushing game is something his team hasn’t faced much this season.

“They don’t throw the ball a whole lot and they will pound us. They play power football,” he said. “Their quarterback is tough and has been giving a lot of people trouble, and they have two good running backs. Their big tackles also do a good job of pulling and their line as a whole does a good job of blocking, so that’s something we’re concerned about.”

In order to control the line of scrimmage, Robicheaux said his team must play sound football on defense and read and react to what Ruston is trying to do.

“The key to the game will be who controls the line of scrimmage. We have to stop their run game,” Robicheaux said.

The Bearcats are also physical on defense with lineman Isaiah Buggs and linebacker Jaquel Owens leading the way. In last week’s playoff win, Owens returned an interception for a touchdown.

“They are big up front and they have a couple of defensive lineman that can play,” Robicheaux said. “Isaiah Buggs is a tall, lanky guy who does a good job coming off of the edge and they have a real big linebacker in Jaquel Owens. They will be big and physical.”

However, no defense this year has been able to slow down the Wildcats. Destrehan is averaging more than 47 points per game in their 10 wins this season.

“We have to continue what we have been doing all season on offense, which is get our players the ball in space and let them make plays,” Robicheaux said.

Kickoff of the Destrehan vs. Ruston game will be at 7 p.m. this Friday.

Destrehan sophomore John Williams and the rest of the Wildcat receivers will need to get open in space in order for the offense to thrive against Ruston.
Destrehan sophomore John Williams and the rest of the Wildcat receivers will need to get open in space in order for the offense to thrive against Ruston.