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First half outburst leads Wildcats

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / November 9, 1998

RESERVE – Thibodaux recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff of its game against East St. John Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium.It would be the highlight of the first half for the Tigers as East St. Johnrolled to a 31-0 halftime lead on its way to a 41-14 victory.

East St. John, 7-2 overall and 5-2 in District 6-5A, clinched second placein the district with the win. The Wildcats will host Covington next Fridayin the state bi-district playoffs. Thibodaux ended its season at 2-7overall and 1-6 in district play.

East St. John dominated the first half, scoring on five of its first sixpossessions and holding Thibodaux to 20 total yards and no first downs.

Brandon Mason continually put the Wildcats in good field position, returning five punts for 151 yards in the half.

Thibodaux opened its first possession at the East St. John 45-yard lineafter Kevin Gaudet recovered the onside kick. But the Wildcats forced theTigers to punt after three plays. Mason took Jeremy Navare’s punt at his10, went to the left and down the sidelines before Josh Becnel made the touchdown-saving tackle at the Thibodaux 41-yard line.

Chris Bush swept right on a reverse for 18 yards to the 22-yard line. Twoplays later, Floyd Smith pumped faked and found Roy Del Williams in the right corner of the end zone for the score. Billy Hogan added the extrapoint to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 8:32 left in the first quarter.

East St. John held again on the ensuing possession and Mason returned theTigers’ punt 25 yards to the Thibodaux 37-yard line. After offsettingpenalties pushed the ball back to the 41, Smith found Bush on a quick slant at the 35-yard line. Bush did the rest, outracing the defense to the endzone. Hogan tacked on the extra point to make it 14-0 with 6:33 remainingin the opening quarter.

Sacks by Matt Roussel and Emmanuel Miles put an end to Thibodaux’s next two drives. On the second possession, Mason returned the punt 25 yards tothe Thibodaux 40-yard line. Two 8-yard sweeps by Chuckie Burl and a 13-yard connection from Smith to Bush put the ball at the Thibodaux 5-yard line. After Smith picked up a first down on fourth-and-1 and a motionpenalty pushed the ball back to the 8, Smith hit Bush in the right side of the end zone. Hogan’s extra point increased the lead to 21-0 with 8:40 leftin the half.

Mason would set the Wildcats up again on their next drive by returning a punt 34-yards to the Thibodaux 26-yard line. Three plays later, Burl sweptright for the score from 23 yards out to make it 28-0 with Hogan’s extra point.

East St. John took over its final drive of the half at the Thibodaux 48-yardline with 2:45 remaining. An 18-yard pass from Smith to Randy Sutherlandand a 22-yard run by Tremaine Moore gave the Wildcats a first down at the 6-yard line. Hogan came in to connect on a 20-yard field goal as timeexpired to give the Wildcats a 31-0 halftime lead.

Thibodaux opened the second half with a 16-play, 69-yard drive that ate up 9:15 of the clock. After converting two third downs on the drive,Toranza Every hit Edward Valentine for 8 yards on fourth-and-7 from the Wildcat 29-yard line. Three plays later, Derrick Coleman ran off righttackle from 12-yards out for the Tigers’ first points. Navare’s extra pointwas no good, leaving the score 31-6 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

East St. John answered on its next possession, converting on two third andlongs. On the first, Smith found Williams for 11 yards and then came backwith a touch pass that Darwin Pittman caught over his shoulder for a 30- yard gain to the Thibodaux 35-yard line. East St. John drove to the 19-yardline before a 5-yard loss by Burl and a holding call pushed the Wildcats back to the 38-yard line. Smith got the Wildcats back in range by firing abullet to Williams at the 11-yard line and Hogan came in to hit a 28-yard field goal, making it 34-6 with 8:40 left in the game.

Two special teams breaks got the Wildcats their next points. First, Hoganpopped up the ensuing kickoff with Kris Toups fumbling and Darnell Rixner recovering for the Wildcats. An 8-yard pass from Smith to Pittman and adefensive pass interference call gave the Wildcats a first down at the 9- yard line.

The Tigers held and Hogan came in to attempt a 32-yard field goal. Thekick was blocked but the Tigers fumbled while trying to fall on the ball at the two and the Wildcats were able to recover. On the ensuing play, JarrodNabor snuck it in and Hogan added the extra point to make it 41-6 with 3:32 on the clock.

Thibodaux drove 60 yards on its next drive for the final points of the game. Every took it up the middle on an option keeper from 8-yards out forthe score. Sean Nelson then took a direct snap and went up the middle forthe two-point conversion to make it 41-14 with 10 seconds remaining.

East St. John finished with 285 yards in total offense. Smith connected on11 of his 17 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns.

Bush caught three passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Williams hadthree receptions for 59 yards and a score while Pittman added three for 48. Burl was the leading rusher with 10 carries for 43 yards.Thibodaux ended up with 147 yards in total offense, 139 of which came on the ground. Coleman led the way with 64 yards on 12 carries. Everycompleted 3-of-6 passes for 8 yards.

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