Tigers top Wildcats in instant classic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hahnville’s 51-yard hail mary sinks East St. John, 28-27

By Steve Aicard

Contributing Writer

HAHNVILLE — Saturday’s game between the East St. John Wildcats and the Hahnville Tigers was everything fans wanted and expected to see and more. This year’s titanic clash between two of Louisiana’s most talented programs came down the wire again, with Laron Byrd catching a 51-yard touchdown pass from Early James as time expired to give Hahnville the 28-27 victory.

Up 27-22 with seven seconds left the Wildcats seemed poised to hand coach Lou Valdin’s Tigers their first loss, when James heaved up a hail mary into the endzone that Byrd bobbled from the grasp of two Wildcat defenders for the victory.

It was a fitting end to an old-fashioned shoot out that was loaded with big plays from the get-go.

In the first quarter East St. John struck first with quarterback Johnnie Thiel hitting running back Stanley Jackson for a 70-yard touchdown. James and the Tigers roared back with scoring drive of their own that ended when James went into the endzone from seven yards out.

But the Thiel and Jackson weren’t finished yet, connecting for a 34-yard completion that set up another Wildcat touchdown on a three-yard run by Johnny Owen. Owen recovered an errant option pitch from Thiel that almost looked more like a basketball-style bounce pass, and ran in for the score to put his team up 14-7

In the second quarter Hahnville started off with a comeback score when James passed to tight end Jordan Stephany from eight yards out to knot the game.

The Wildcats had an answer again though, as Owen raced 78 yards on the first play of the next drive for another six points. Owen finished with 84 yards on four carries.

East St. John appeared to be in the driver’s seat when linebacker Josh Woodard intercepted James on the next series and returned the ball to the Hahnville 30. Thiel hit Louis Lee for a 30-yard score two plays later, giving East St. John a 27-13 lead. Hahnville threatened again, but James’s 15-yard scoring pass was called back on an offsides penalty, and his fourth-down pass with 25 seconds left in the half fell incomplete.

The second half of the game was a completely different story for both teams, as the third quarter turned into an exchange of punts. Hahnville was able to control the ball longer by converting six first downs while the Tiger defense completely shut the Wildcat’s offense down not allowing them to convert a single first down.

The fourth quarter opened with a spark as Hahnville marched into East St. John territory. Terrance Isaac scored from one yard out to close the gap to 27-20 with the PAT. Isaac rushed for 157 yards on 29 carries.

But on its next offensive march the Tigers hopes took a hit when James was picked off on the one-yard line by East St. John’s Lacardio Joseph. But the Wildcats momentum was short-lived as Carnell James and the rest of Hahnville’s “Purple Haze” defense swamped Thiel in the end zone for a safety.

The Wildcats got another opportunity to seal the when Kalen Collins recovered a fumble from Isaac on the wildcat 30, but Hahnville forced a three-and-out, giving them the ball on their own 38 for the game’s final drive.

James finished with 203 yards passing on 14 of 36 completions and also rushed 11 times for 31 yards. Thiel completed three of six passes for 136 yards to go with 51 yards on 11 rushes.