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Defense sparks Wildcats’ comeback

JERRY FREOBA / L’Observateur / November 23, 1998

RESERVE – The East St. John wildcats fell behind Terrebonne 14-0 in thefirst quarter, then rallied to score 21 unanswered points for a 21-14 victory.

East St. John advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1980when it won the Class 4A state championship. The Wildcats, 9-2, willtravel to Monroe to take on No. 1-ranked West Monroe. Terrebonne finishedat 8-4.

“We played hard for 48 minutes, we didn’t quit, East St. John coach RonnieStephens said after the game. “The kids have played hard all year.”On East St. John’s second possession, Floyd Smith fumbled after beingsacked and Terrebonne recovered at the Wildcat 18. The Tigers then scoredthe first points of the game on a 4-yard run by Claude Johnson. The extrapoint was good, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Terrebonne increased the lead to 14-0 on its next possession, driving in six plays. Johnson got his second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run.Running back Will Henry had a 50-yard run on the drive.

The Wildcats tried to get back into the game, driving 79 yards in 13 plays to the Tigers 1-yard line. But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Chuckie Burlwas dropped for a 3-yard loss.

East St. John’s defense came alive, forcing the Tigers to punt, setting upexcellent field position at the Terrebonne 42. After spotting the Tigers a14-point lead, the Wildcat defense came up with three interceptions to stop Tiger drives and stopped Terrebonne on three different fourth downs to end drives.

Smith ran for 15 yards to the the Tiger 27, then completed a 17-yard pass to Jerome Anderson to the 11. Brandon August got the touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. William Hogan’s extra point cut the lead to 14-7 with 7:58left in the second quarter.

East St. John’s defense came up with their first turnover of the gamewhendefensive back Tran Collins picked off an Alton Diggs pass at his 38 and returned it to the Terrebonne 47.

The Wildcats needed only three plays to drive the 47 yards for the touchdown. Smith connected with Roy Del Williams on a 20-yard completion. Brandon August then rammed up the middle for 9 more yardsand on second-and-1 at the Terrebonne 16, Smith found Chris Bush open in the end zone to cut the lead to 14-13. William Hogan’s extra point wasblocked, leaving the score at 14-13.

On Terrebonne’s next possession, Henry broke loose on a 51-yard run to the Wildcat14. But on first down, linebacker Samson Monica brooke through todrop Johnson for a loss .Three plays later, facing a fourth-and-16 at theWildcat 20 ,Donald Jones was stopped for no gain by the Wildcat defense.

East St. John’s defense came up with big play after big play in the secondhalf. Terrebonne drove to the Wildcat 22 on its first possession of thesecond half, but the Wildcats pushed the Tigers back to the 25 where on fourth-and-13, Andrew Coleman was tackled for a 4-yard loss.Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats started a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take their first lead of the game at 21-14. Burl got thedrive rolling, rushing for 18 yards on three carries, moving the ball to the Wildcat 44.

Burl carried two more times, bringing the ball to the Terrebonne 39. Burlwould lead East St. John in rushing with 90 yards on eighteen carries.The Tiger defense stiffened up, forcing the Wildcats into a fourth-and-8 at the 26. Smith went to Williams for a 17-yard completion and a first-and-goal at the nine.

On second-and-goal at the 6, Smith rolled to his right and found Darwin Pittman at the goal line for the touchdown. Smith found Williams open inthe end zone on the two point conversion to make the score 21-14.

Johnson returned the kickoff to the Tigers 45, setting up good field position. Terrebonne drove to the Wildcat 34 where on fourth-and-4,defensive back Samuel Davenport picked off a Diggs pass at the Wildcat 27.

With 6:53 left in the game, Smith’s pass was picked off at the Terrebonne 32. Smith was 11-for-20 with two toucdowns and three interceptions inthe game.

On first-and-15 from the Terrebone 27, Johnson broke loose down the left sidelines and looked like he might go all the way. But a hustling Collinsmade a touchdown saving tackle at the wildcat twenty two.On the playCollins dove for Johnson to make the tackle.

After the game Collins said, “I was just going for anything I could get my hands on.”Defensive back Charles Rayfield got the Wildcats third interception of the game on the next play, returning the ball to the Wildcat 35.

The Wildcats moved to the Tigers 49, but on third-and-4, Smith was intercepted, giving Terrebonne a first down at its 48 with three minutesleft in the game.

The defense came up big again for the Wildcats, stopping the Tigers on four downs and giving the ball back to the offense with under two minutes left in the game. Defensive end Greg Gathers came up with a big play onfirst down, sacking Diggs for a loss back to the Tigers 45. On second down,Diggs scrambled down to the Wildcat44.

On third-and-2, Henry was held to a 1-yard gain. Facing a fourth-and-oneat the 43, Henry tried to go up the middle but the middle of the Wildcat defense led by Gathers, Monica, Irvin and Roussel forced Henry to go outside where defensive back Brandon Mason was waiting. Mason droppedHenry for a 1-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with less the two minutes left in the game.

The wildcats needed to pickup at least one first down to run out the clock because Terrebonne had two time outs left.

With Terrebonne out of time outs and facing a third-and-7, Smith bootlegged to his left for 34 yards and a first down at the Tigers 19.

Smith knelt down and ran out the clock.

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