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Defensive battle expected as ESJ, Lutcher clash

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / September 2, 1998

RESERVE – One of the oldest rivalries in the state will literally be a dog and cat fight as East St. John and Lutcher square off in their annualmeeting Friday night at Lutcher.

This year’s version of the series figures to be a low-scoring affair. Bothteams’ strengths look to be their defenses as they showed in the River Parishes Jamboree this past weekend. The Wildcats held St. James to 160yards with 70 of those coming on a touchdown run by Chad Jasmin in St.

James’ 19-0 win. The Bulldogs were even stingier, holding St. CharlesCatholic to 20 total yards in offense, including negative 26 on the ground, in their 23-0 victory.

The East St. John defense is led by seniors Greg Gathers, Samson Monicaand Tran Collins. Gathers had a team-high 20 1/2 sacks as an all-statetackle last season. He will be joined on the line by Myer Irvin, EmmanuelMiles and Edward Campbell.

Monica led the area in tackles last season with 109, including 72 solo. Thelinebacking corps includes Deval Ceasar and Jon Moll. Collins, whointercepted three passes last season, returns in the defensive backfield.

The Bulldogs, ranked seventh in the preseason LSWA Class 3A poll, have what many are calling their best defenses in years. Brad Whitney returnsat defensive tackle after missing the 1997 season with an injury. The linereturns also returns three starters from last season – Rick Bleakley, Clarence Weber and Andy Tramonte. The defensive backfield kept theComets’ passing game in check, limiting it to two completions in eight attempts.

Offensively, the Bulldogs moved the ball effectively against the Comets.

Rusty Crosslin completed four of his six passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Crosslin will get the start against East St. John althoughThomas Ricks will also see action.

One of Crosslin’s touchdowns was an 80-yard strike to Kenneth Johnson, who had two receptions for 111 yards. Damian Ursin did the damage on theground, gaining 63 yards on nine carries. Ursin also caught two passes for39 yards and a score.

East St. John gained 95 yards against St. James with 73 of those yardscoming on the ground. Brandon August led the way with 47 yards on 16carries.

“It was a typical jamboree,” East St. John coach Ronnie Stephens said.”The defense should be ahead of the offense. We moved the ball well on theground. The second half was better than the first. Overall, I am pleasewith where we are at.”The game will mark Stephens’ first as head coach of the Wildcats. Addingto the excitement is the tradition behind the series which dates back to the 1920s.

“There is a great atmosphere at Lutcher and they have a great tradition,” Stephens said. “It is a community thing. I am excited and am lookingforward to Friday night.”Stephens said the key for his team is no turnovers like the ones they had Thursday against St. James when they fumbled inside the 20 on theiropening possession. Defensively, the Wildcats cannot give up the big play.And while the Bulldogs are known for their trickery on offense, Stephens said the tough part about Lutcher is their commitment to the basics.

“What is going to beat you is that they are fundamentally sound in all three phases,” Stephens said.

Another factor could be the play of the special teams. Johnson had a 41-yard punt return and another return of 56 yards that was called back because of a penalty. Chris Johnson also had a 35-yard return and LaneZimmer kicked a 43-yard field goal.

“We can’t make any mistakes in the kicking game,” Stephens said.

Turnovers are also a key for the Bulldogs. Last year, turnovers by theBulldogs near halftime turned a close game into a 29-6 lead for the Wildcats as they went on to a 42-19 victory.

“We have got to win the turnover battle,” Detillier said.

Detillier said he hopes the rivalry between the two schools continues for years to come. He said two advantages of playing a school like East St.John is that it helps you prepare for district while at the same time helps position the team in terms of power points at the end of the season.

Detillier said the game also is a good gauge for him and that how his team plays in the game usually tells him what kind of team he will have. Lastyear was an exception, he added, as the Bulldogs rebounded from that season-opening loss on the road to finish the season 7-3.

“It really shows your strengths and weaknesses and what you have to work on,” Detillier said of playing higher classification schools. “We willbe better prepared for district and in the position of power points.”Lutcher hosts another Class 5A school next week in Holy Cross. East St.John has its home opener against McDonogh 35.

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