Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sports Editor

Even if it wasn’t always pretty, on Friday night Destrehan simply found a way to win for the 22nd consecutive time.

And if East St. John doesn’t take a page from that playbook soon, it could be on the outside looking in at the postseason.

On a night where two rivals couldn’t seem to get an offensive flow going, Destrehan made just enough big plays to give its defense the support it needed, besting host East St. John 23-7 at Joe Keller Field in a District 5-5A game.

Destrehan won the highly anticipated “Battle of the Wildcats” in large part due to a 114 yard, two-touchdown performance by Corey Vidal, as well as a Herculean defensive effort by a defense that held ESJ’s All-State rusher Alex Singleton to 18 yards on 15 carries.

“It’s a huge win for us,” said Destrehan Coach Stephen Robicheaux. “To come into their place, and only allow seven points — all I can say is I take my hat off to our defense.”

Destrehan’s defensive line of Darrington Sentimore, Brennon Nora, Calvin Ursin and Johnnie Hawkins controlled the line of scrimmage against East St. John’s highly touted offensive line. Overall, East St. John gained only 167 yards, 98 of it on the ground — especially key on a night where the ESJ defense answered, allowing Destrehan to gain only 184 total yards — a mere 10 in the second half — and two offensive touchdowns.

“We challenged our guys, and this was the best performance up front we’ve had this year,” said Robicheaux. “We wanted to make (ESJ) run east and west, not north and south.”

The win put Destrehan (7-0, 3-0) in a first place tie in the Class 5A power ratings with West Monroe. DHS is ranked No. 2 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association poll for 5A.

Contrarily, the loss virtually eliminates ESJ from district title contention, and puts the team (2-4, 1-2) in a precarious position — ESJ is now ranked No. 40 in power ratings — the top 32 move on to the state playoffs.

“We’re only promised two more weeks,” said East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive. “If we don’t beat Hahnville (this Friday), our chances are next to nil.”

The teams combined for no first downs through the first five series of the game. But East St. John began its third drive with good field position, on its own 47 after a DHS punt.

Todd Muse ran around right end for the game’s first explosive play, gaining 44-yards and setting ESJ up at the DHS 9.

Two plays later, Kalen Henderson put ESJ on the board when he found Mark LaGrande for a 16-yard touchdown with 2:14 left in the first, making it 7-0.

It seemed to wake up Destrehan, which began moving the ball against the heavy East St. John pressure with quick hitters and runs. After exchanging punts, Destrehan got on the board when Wynrick Smothers scrambled and found Vidal wide open along the sideline. Vidal caught the ball, made two defenders miss and found his way to paydirt, tying the game with a 57-yard score with 8:38 left in the half.

“I saw my quarterback in trouble, and I had to find a hole in the zone,” Vidal said. “After that, I was thinking about nothing but the endzone.”

The game would swing quickly to Destrehan’s favor. On a second-and-14 play on the ensuing ESJ possession, Henderson was pressured into a poor throw, which Rufus Porter intercepted at the ESJ 28.

“Porter made a big play,” said Robicheaux. “It turned things around, definitely.”

Two plays later, Smothers again connected with Vidal, who caught a pass at the 13 and found his way into the endzone for a 28-yard go-ahead touchdown with 7:29 remaining in the second quarter.

“One of our receivers has had a big night for us in each game,” Robicheaux said. “(Vidal) stepped up tonight.”

Another Destrehan stop resulted in a big special teams play. Antonio Parker fielded Henderson’s punt at the ESJ 31 and took the kick back for a 69-yard score, putting DHS ahead 21-7 with 3:46 left in the half.

“It comes down to this — they made the plays. We didn’t,” said Dauterive.

ESJ drove into Destrehan territory on their first two drives of the second half, but came away with no points — a punt ended the first drive, and Porter stopped Singleton short of a first on fourth-and-one on the second.

On ESJ’s next drive, Destrehan’s defense came up with points of its own when David Lane tackled Henderson in the endzone for a safety on a second-and-17 play.

From there, East St. John’s offense could find no answers, forced to pass against a defense now ready for it.

“They were rushing three and dropping eight. But we put ourselves in that position by falling behind,” said Dauterive.

Smothers completed 7-of-22 passes for 141 yards. Porter had eight tackles, and Sentimore had six.

Muse led ESJ with eight carries for 58 yards.

Dauterive credited his defense, calling it the best effort he’s seen from the unit this season.

But, he notes, time is running out for the Wildcats to put a complete game together.

“We don’t have much time,” Dauterive said.