Wildcats outlast Tigers in overtime
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
A fourth quarter Hahnville rally put East St. John’s apparent victory — and playoff aspirations — in doubt.
But Kalen Henderson’s 3-yard touchdown and Torri Zeno’s fourth down deflection of Hahnville’s final pass attempt in overtime breathed brand new life into the Wildcats’ season, as ESJ captured a 35-28 district win in Hahnville on Friday night.
“It was just another classic East St. John-Hahnville game,” said East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive. “We’ve been fortunate to have it go our way the last three years. We know anything’s gonna happen in these games.”
After losing four games to highly ranked opponents, the Wildcats (3-4, 2-2) were on the outside looking in for the postseason, ranked 40th in power points.
But the win over Hahnville (5-3, 2-2) places ESJ square in the 32nd spot — the top 32 teams make the postseason. A win over East Ascension Friday night would likely clinch a spot.
“If we take care of business, I think we’re in,” said Dauterive. “The four teams that beat us are a combined 30-3. The silver lining, like I told the team, if there’s any kind of a tie for that last spot, we should beat everybody in strength of schedule.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, are ticketed for the playoffs, but are eliminated from contention for a share of the District 5-5A title.
Hahnville trailed 28-13 late in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers found a way to force overtime for the second straight year. Guiseppe Crovetto’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Blaise Dempster cut the lead to 28-20 with four minutes left.
Hahnville then forced a punt, and Alfred Blue would cut the lead to two after he capped a Tiger drive with a 5-yard scoring run. Crovetto scored on a run for the two-point conversion, and the teams went to overtime.
“We knew they wouldn’t give in,” said Dauterive.
Said Hahnville Coach Lou Valdin: “We kept telling our kids before the game, these guys are fighting for their football lives. It took us a half to realize that.”
Henderson scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on a third down option keeper.
Zeno knocked down two passes on Hahnville’s final drive.
“After he knocked the last one down, there was a euphoria that erupted on the field,” said Dauterive.
It didn’t look like the best start for ESJ, but few would quibble with the Wildcats’ results before halftime. Hahnville recovered an onside kick to begin the game, but came away with no points. But Hahnville would soon take an early 3-0 on a Brandon Larousse 43-yard field goal. But from there, East St. John had their way for the rest of the half.
The Wildcats struck first on a big passing play, as Henderson threw a deep bomb to Reynaldo Young for an 80-yard touchdown to make it 7-3.
Dauterive reached into his bag of coaching tricks for the team’s next touchdown. As ESJ lined up for a field goal, Henderson — the holder — took the snap without kneeling to the turf. He stood up and threw a quick pass to Mark Lagrande for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 14-3 in the second quarter.
Todd Muse’s 25-yard touchdown run before halftime made it 21-3, and Hahnville was on the ropes.
“We played badly in the first half,” Valdin said. “East St. John was a desperate team and they were far more physical than we were in the first half.
“We’ve got a young bunch, and they punched us in the mouth.”
The Tigers struck back on the opening possession of the second half. Ahmad White returned ESJ’s kickoff to the Wildcats’ 5, and Crovetto made it count with a 5-yard touchdown to Jai Steib. Larousse would later hit his second field goal, cutting the lead to 21-13.
Muse’s second touchdown of the night, from 10-yards away, came in the fourth quarter and gave the wildcats some breathing room, albeit temporary.
Time of possession was virtually even between the teams — ESJ won the battle 23:49 to 22:11. The teams also were similar in terms of total yardage — the Wildcats’ advantage was 275 to 236.
Dauterive said a big difference in the win was the play of the Wildcats’ special teams — not only on the fake field goal conversion, but also the role of junior kicker Tyler Hazet, who hit all five of his extra point attempts.
“If he misses one of those in regulation, we lose the game,” Dauterive said. “He’s a young guy who’s been working hard all year, and I appreciate his efforts.”
Alex Singleton led ESJ in rushing, running 16 times for 87 yards.
The Wildcats also did not turn the ball over, and rushed for 228 yards. Each was a key factor in the Wildcats’ biggest win of the season to date.
“If ever there was a must win game for us since I’ve been here,” Dauterive said, “it was on Friday night.”