There was a primetime, big game atmosphere at Joe Keller Memorial Stadium on Friday night – even after the District 7-5A championship showdown between undefeated rivals Destrehan and East St. John began, large swaths of people were lined up at the front and around the Reserve stadium, which was filled to capacity. Several media outlets were on hand, as were scouts and assistant coaches from collegiate programs.
The game had the hype and feeling of a heavyweight fight.
And there might not be another team, statewide, with the knockout power of the Destrehan Wildcats.
Destrehan stunned the sold-out crowd by immediately seizing control of what became a 48-7 district championship sealing win, scoring all 48 points prior to halftime. In a game that many predicted would be the first of the season to see a team take No. 1 ranked Destrehan into the fourth quarter of a tight game, instead Destrehan all but ended the matter in less than a quarter. Shane Lee’s second of three touchdowns on the night with eight seconds left in the opening quarter gave Destrehan a 28-7 lead.
“We came out feeling pretty loose,” said Lee. “We were feeling pretty good, and we wanted to end this pretty early. We were very physical.”
Eugene, who accounted for three touchdowns – two passing and one rushing – said his team understood the stakes.
“This was a great atmosphere, a lot of people here tonight … they were 8-0, we were 8-0 and I think this was a matchup people really wanted to see. But I feel like we came out hot, started fast and put it on them.”
At approximately two minutes into the game, Destrehan led 14-0. DHS scored touchdowns on three of its first four offensive plays, including three straight plays resulting in a touchdown. Lee – and a dominating Destrehan offensive line – set the tone early, racing for a 41-yard gain to start things off. Eugene did the rest, scoring on a 22-yard keeper to push Destrehan ahead 7-0.
Destrehan’s defense was similarly not interested in waiting to make an impact. Andrew Schafer’s interception of East St. John passer Yashua Mitchell and return to the ESJ 2. Lee punched it in to make it 14-0.
East St. John (8-1, 5-1) was forced to punt on its next possession. Eugene started the ensuing drive with his first pass of the game – a 55-yard strike to Brandon Freeman that resulted in a 21-0 lead for the visitors.
Earlier this season, East St. John wide receiver Koyal Gray scored a pair of game-changing touchdowns in ESJ’s win over the Hahnville Tigers. The speedster made it a third score against St. Charles Parish squads when he hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass from Mitchell to make it 21-7. But that would be the last bit of resistance ESJ could muster.
Lee finished off Destrehan’s next scoring drive with a pair of bruising runs, pushing a pile for several extra yards on the first, then running through contact and lunging to score on the second to make it 28-7.
Daniel Blood was next. After Destrehan forced a punt from deep in ESJ’s own territory, Blood fielded the kick and found the lane he needed to weave through the coverage team and score to make it 35-7.
Lee hauled in a score from Eugene to make it 42-7. And Jackson Fields, on in relief of Eugene late in the first half, found Blood for the latter’s second touchdown on the night to extend the lead to 41.
Destrehan (9-0, 6-0) is now district champion, though it will need a win next week over Thibodaux to ensure the outright championship with no split.
Lee, who topped the 140 yard rushing mark in a little less than a full half of work, has been a big game player throughout his career with Destrehan – and still just a junior, there’s plenty left to come for him in a Destrehan uniform.
“Shane’s been the best player in St. Charles Parish since he was 5-years-old,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “A lot more people are starting to learn about him, and it’s certainly a luxury to have someone like him on our team.”