Destrehan falls to rival East St. John in defensive struggle

Tyler Morton returns a punt for Destrehan in Friday's game.

Destrehan is searching for answers.

That much is clear after its third loss in its last four games, the Wildcats falling at home on Friday night to East St. John in a defensive battle, 14-13. It was Destrehan’s second district loss of the season, and represents the first time since 2012 that the Wildcats have dropped multiple district games in a season. 2012 also marked the last time East St. John secured a win over Destrehan prior to Friday night.

DHS (4-3, 1-2) couldn’t find any offensive footing against a fast, talented East St. John defense. Compounding matters for Destrehan was the team’s limited options in terms of playcalling on Friday – senior starting quarterback Damarius Jackson’s mobility was hindered by an ankle injury, and he only played in relief of freshman passer Jai Eugene, who started the game but was lifted in the third quarter with the offense struggling.

“Their defensive line just mauled us up front,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux. “We ran the ball a little bit in the first half … they started to bring the house at the end and we couldn’t make the big play when we had to. Our kids played their hearts out. We had a chance to win, but we don’t, and that’s been the case this year.”

It was indeed the third time in as many losses Destrehan rallied from a double-figure deficit, first at St. James and then at Terrebonne.

This one may have been the toughest to swallow for Destrehan, however, simply because after falling behind 14-0, DHS appeared to rally back to tie the game in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Jackson to Quincy Brown, who made a spectacular catch to make it 14-13. But the extra point was missed, and Robicheaux noted after the game the Wildcats were dealing with an injury at kicker. That may have manifested in several spots in the third and fourth quarters where field goals were possible, though a windy night may have also played factor.

While East St. John’s defense stepped up all night long, so did Destrehan’s after allowing two first half touchdowns, shutting out ESJ (5-2, 2-1) in the second half.

“Hats off to them. They gave us a chance to win,” Robicheaux said.

Destrehan’s best chance to do just that came on its second to last drive of the night. Facing a fourth down and one with four minutes left to play, Jackson’s hard count drew East St. John offsides for a first down.

But facing a another fourth down and short a few plays later, Jackson attempted to hit Kyle Edwards on a swing pass to pick up the first – and potentially a touchdown – but missed wide.

“Every time we tried to run on fourth, they brought everyone … we thought we could sneak somebody behind them and get a big play. Hats off to East St. John, when they needed to, they made the stop. We knew they were a very good defensive team, and they showed tonight they really are.”

East St. John’s first half touchdowns came on a 2-yard run by Calvin Gardner and a 37-yard touchdown pass by Sean Shelby to Dontae Fleming. Destrehan led the game 7-0 early on after a 27-yard touchdown run by Edwards, who finished the night with 145 yards on the ground.

It marks the third straight season a game between the teams was decided by a single point, with Destrehan taking two wins by identical 35-34 scores in 2017 and 2018.

With Thibodaux, Central Lafourche and Hahnville remaining on the schedule, Destrehan will have to quickly right the ship.

“It’ll be tough. It’s a tough loss … we have to go back to basics and do things right … this isn’t a young football team, but it is an inexperienced one. Hopefully we can keep getting better, mature, win a few on the back end and hopefully get in the playoffs,” Robicheaux said.

 

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