It was an eerily familiar situation that the Destrehan Wildcats found themselves in on Friday against the John Ehret Patriots.
After falling behind early, the Wildcats battled back in the second half to tie the score and force overtime for the second-straight week. Even the score was the same at 20-20. But unfortunately, the result was the same as well with the Wildcats falling short 20-26.
This time, it was quarterback Donovan Isom that almost gave them the victory as he battled through Ehret defenders from four yards out and extended the ball as he went down, just short of the goal line. Destrehan head coach Chris Stroud has looked at the game film and had a message for his players this week.
“We have played hard, battled back and fought to get to overtime, week after week,” he said. “We talked about football and how life was a game of inches. You have to fight and battle for every inch and when you go back and look at film and see Donovan Isom stretched out near the goal line, he is exactly one inch from it.”
The loss drops Destrehan to 2-5 on the season and 0-2 in district play with three games remaining.
Running back Kevin Smith was the team leader again this week on both sides of the ball. Not only did he rush for 103 yards and a touchdown, he also recorded 15 tackles at safety.
But it was another running back who scored the touchdown that tied the game to force overtime. Lou Donovan Wells, who returned from an injury this week, made the most of his carries with 30 yards and a touchdown.
“Lou has been rehabbing and nursing a knee injury,” said Stroud. “He and Talvin Michael both stepped up. We expect great things from both for the remainder of this season and next.”
Isom started and played the entire game at quarterback, completing 18 of 23 passes (six for six in the second half) for 94 yards while spreading the ball out to seven different receivers and running for 75 yards as well.
“He had a great week of practice,” said Stroud. “He still has a long way to go, but I like the improvement.”
The Wildcats fell behind early and had to play catch-up for the fourth consecutive week. But after allowing the two early scores, the defense dug in and made several big plays that kept them in the game. The first was a forced fumble late in the first half that was recovered by Smith and resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Daniel Cimino. The other plays of note were two sacks by linebackers Gary Johnson and Malcolm Darensbourg that halted potentially game-winning drives by Ehret. Stroud was pleased with their effort but found some elements they still needed work on.
“I like the effort,” said Stroud. “But we’re still late getting off blocks on the perimeter and we’re missing tackles in the open field and near the goal line. But we had another night of great effort and leaving it all on the field.”
This Friday, Destrehan faces the 5-2 East St. John Wildcats who are coming off of a big come-from-behind victory over Hahnville.
Like the quarterbacks of Higgins and John Ehret, East St. John quarterback Darion Monroe is a playmaker. And while he has rushed for nine touchdowns this season, he has also thrown nine touchdown passes this season. So the Destrehan defense will have to be prepared on both fronts. But Stroud thinks that facing similar players earlier this season will be to his team’s advantage.
“I think Cedrick Jackson of Higgins and Mike Alexander of Ehret helped us out,” he said. “Darion throws a little better than both and his surrounding cast is a little better. But that’s just another big challenge for our defense.”
Over the past four weeks, Destrehan has scored eight second half touchdowns. However, they have not scored a touchdown in the first half of a game since the third week of the season. Stroud wants his team to rectify that.
“We need to score early and score often,” he stated. “We need to establish a running game to keep Donovan [Isom] in high percentage on second and third down plays and we need to convert in the red zone and on the goal line.”
Both of East St. John’s losses this season have been to undefeated opponents, so Destrehan will have a tough game ahead of them. But they have proven over the past few weeks that they will never give up.
The two River Parish Wildcat teams will face off on Friday at Destrehan at 7 p.m.