Destrehan made a statement last Friday by thrashing East St. John 68-14, but as soon as the game was over excitement in the community reached a fever pitch with news that the Wildcats would face rival Hahnville in the Class 5A quarterfinals.
However, Destrehan head coach Stephen Robicheaux doesn’t expect his players to get lost in the rivalry and lose focus on the task at hand, which is winning a state championship.
“Even with the excitement, what I really like is our kids have been even-keeled and very focused throughout the season” he said. “It has been a good group and they understand and do the things they are supposed to do. I can count on one hand the amount of times I was disappointed after practice.”
Robicheaux said his team had one of the best weeks of practice this season before facing East St. John. The result was a 68-14 dismantling of ESJ where the Wildcats dominated all phases of the game.
Destrehan’s Kirk Merritt raced down the left sideline for a 55-yard score on the first play from scrimmage and the Wildcats dominated from that point on. Destrehan quarterback Marquise Darensbourg tossed three touchdowns and the Wildcat defense blocked a punt, recorded a safety and returned a fumble for another score in the blowout win.
“Our defensive coordinator had a great game plan, our QBs played well and they got the ball into our playmakers’ hands,” Robicheaux said. “We got on a roll, and when that happens it’s a good thing.”
Destrehan will need to get off to another fast start if they hope to knock off Hahnville on Friday. Robicheaux said the Tigers have made a lot of improvement since his team beat them 24-6 in early October.
“When coach Salt brought that offense, it was totally new. As a head coach, it takes time for the players to get it,” Robicheaux said. “It’s week 12 and they are playing better, blocking better and doing a good job of running the football.”
Hahnville quarterback Mike Neal, who was the starter to open the season, was injured when Destrehan faced Hahnville the first time around. Robicheaux said having Neal back makes the Tigers more of a threat.
“With Neal and Austin Perrin, they have two quarterbacks who both do a good job and it makes them a dual threat offense,” he said. “They are so much better now than they were early in the season.”
Robicheaux also singled out the play of the Tiger defense, which limited No. 5 Haughton to only 14 points last week.
“When you travel to Haughton and hold those guys down, that’s a heck of an accomplishment,” Robicheaux said. “Their defense does a good job of getting pressure and they have a good secondary that makes plays for them.”
Hahnville has also forced plenty of turnovers this season, which worries Robicheaux. In fact, a fumble recovery and ensuing touchdown by Hahnville linebacker Peyton Robert proved to be the difference in last week’s Tiger victory.
“The thing that sticks out are the turnovers they get. They get turnovers on defense and even on special teams,” Robicheaux said. “We didn’t have any turnovers last week and we will have to continue to take care of the football.”
Both teams have had a lot of success on the ground this season, and Robicheaux said play in the trenches will be the key to a Destrehan win.
“Both teams want to run the football. Last time we played them, we didn’t throw a pass in the second half, so the line play is going to be huge,” Robicheaux said. “Our philosophy is to run the ball and spread you out. If we can get our playmakers the ball in space, it’s definitely a plus.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Destrehan.