Kolaj Cobbins said he and his Destrehan teammates expected nothing short of a battle against rival East St. John Friday night, and it’s exactly what they got.
But in the end – and with a big assist from Cobbins’ pass rushing skills in the second half – Destrehan emerged with a 23-13 victory to seal at least a share of the District 7-5A championship. The Wildcats can secure the 7-5A crown outright with a win next week over Thibodaux.
The win is Destrehan’s 23rd in a row and moves the team to 9-0 this season, 5-0 within District 7-5A, Much like most games between these two schools, emotions ran high as did the physicality throughout the contest.
This one carried perhaps even a little extra “oomph” behind all of that, though – the last time these two teams played, ESJ came close to stopping Destrehan’s championship drive in the state quarterfinals before Destrehan ultimately survived to eliminate ESJ, 21-20.
“That was a battle and we knew this would be,” said Cobbins. “We tried to ignore social media, the extra talk and stuff outside … but we knew what to expect tonight. We just tried to play Destrehan football. We made a few mistakes, but we played well and got it done.”
A key sequence came late in the third quarter. With Destrehan leading 20-13, East St. John drove into DHS territory. But after a penalty set ESJ back to a third-and-long, Cobbins screamed around the end for a sack that all but ended the ESJ drive.
“I play hard every down, but third down is when I’m really gonna bring it,” Cobbins said. “That’s what can determine how the drive ends.”
Certainly the truth, as on the very next play, Jhase Thomas hurried an East St. John punt and ESJ never got the kick off – Destrehan earned a tackle for loss and a turnover on downs.
Destrehan started its own drive in good field position. On a key 4th and 1, a Jackson Fields hard count induced an offsides penalty that earned a first down. On a 3rd and 8 play, Fields pulled the ball down and scrambled for a first down inside the ESJ 10. After Elijah Frank recorded a tackle for loss to force a fourth down, DHS kicker Ryan Lacy stepped onto the field for a critical kick that could all but put the game away. He drilled the 26-yard kick and Destrehan took a 10-point lead – that was Lacy’s third successful field goal of the night.
ESJ’s last chance was all but derailed after a Cobbins sack on a second down play – that ultimately resulted in a 4th and 20 and an ESJ punt, the game all but over.
Destrehan had to earn the win without its star rusher Shane Lee, who was sidelined by injury. Lee has long been the heartbeat of the Destrehan offense, but his teammates were ready to step forward in his stead.
“I told the whole team as a matter of fact that we’ve gotta play for no. 4, we’ve gotta play for Shane Lee,” Cobbins said. “Everything he gives for this program – our defense, we’ve definitely gotta bring it. (running back) Shane Ward, we need you to step it up. And he definitely did it. Our offense stepped up without Shane.”
Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott said Lee could have played potentially were Friday’s matchup a postseason/elimination game, but that for this week the Wildcats exercised caution.
“We thought it would be best to give him a little rest,” said Scott. “We have other guys who are able to step in, and for the second straight week, Shane Ward stepped in and played well. That’s program – and that’s what it’s all about.”
Lorenzo Zeno’s touchdown pass to Kendall Walker gave East St. John a 10-7 lead in the second quarter before Lacy tied things up at 10.
Fields rushed for a score to push Destrehan ahead at halftime, 17-10.
Jason Coello’s field goal in the third quarter cut that lead to four. Lacy matched that kick later in the period to extend the lead back to seven.
East St. John fell to 6-2 with the loss, 4-2 in District 7-5A.
Destrehan is on the edge of a first round bye – if it finishes the season with a victory next week at Thibodaux, it could potentially secure a top 4 seed, and with that a bye for the second consecutive season.