Wildcats fall to Rams
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
East St. John’s season ended exactly where it began.
ESJ opened its season with a hard-fought, 28-21 loss at Acadiana. On Friday night, it ended the same way as a Wildcats rally fell just short. The No. 6 seeded Wrecking Rams outlasted the No. 27 Wildcats, 28-21 in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game at Acadiana.
Thanks largely to a brutal regular season schedule that pitted the Wildcats (4-5) against three teams ranked No. 2 or higher and another against a top five squad, an ESJ team that began the year ranked sixth had four losses entering the playoffs.
It set up an extraordinarily rare first round playoff battle between fellow state championship contenders.
“That,” said Acadiana Coach Ted Davidson of ESJ, “is the best 27 seed ever. I never want to see them again.”
Said East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive: “I love these kids. For the teams we played against, to show this kind of tenacity, to stick to it…I’m as proud of them as I would be a 10-0 team.”
Two fumbles deep in Acadiana territory and a key drive-sustaining penalty on the Rams’ final possession were all costly for East St. John, which moved the ball consistently against a talented Acadiana defense.
But the Wrecking Rams (9-1) would still have to survive a wild fourth quarter to advance.
After East St. John’s Alex Singleton scored with 2.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut the Rams lead to 21-14, Acadiana faced a third and two from its own 36. Vinice Prejean converted — and found a lot more running room ahead of him. His run up the middle turned into a 64-yard touchdown run and gave all the momentum back to Acadiana.
“We just allowed too many big plays. The only consistent drive they had was their last,” said Dauterive.
East St. John’s Andre Taylor responded, returning a short ensuing kickoff to the Rams’ 49.
But on the drive’s fourth play, Acadiana’s Keith Ollison forced a Todd Muse fumble and Matt Crooks recovered at the Acadiana 27 with 8:36 left.
Acadiana ran five straight times and got to the Wildcats’ 24, but Taylor stepped up again, recovering a fumble by Dvan Alexander to put his team back in business at the ESJ 41.
Two plays later, Kalen Henderson dialed up Andre Millet on a 46-yard pass to the Ram 3. Singleton barreled in on the next play to make it 28-21 with 4:56 left in the fourth.
A pivotal penalty would prove deadly to the Wildcats’ chances. After stopping Acadiana cold on first down, the Wildcats corralled quarterback Louis Hollier for a short gain on second, setting up an apparent third and long. But officials ruled that Hollier was hit late out of bounds, drawing a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
Alexander would convert a first down on third-and-two. Then Hollier took off for a 13-yard gain on second-and-nine and secured a first down with 2:37 left. East St. John had to burn its three time outs, and Acadiana milked the rest of the clock to ice the win.
“We just needed a stop on defense, and we couldn’t get it,” Dauterive said.
Singleton, who often lined up at the quarterback position in the ‘Wildcat’ formation, rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries — much of that coming in the third quarter, where the senior continually pounded and dragged defenders for extra yardage despite sustaining an injury in the first quarter.
“He just didn’t want it to end,” said Dauterive.
Henderson completed 8-of-12 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Alexander rushed for 132 yards and a score to lead Acadiana, which gained 426 total yards.
One of those came in the second quarter. Backed up to its own four and facing a third and 25, Hollier threw a deep pass off play-action to Dashami Andrus for a 96-yard score.
ESJ got its first touchdown with 3:03 left in the first half on a 2-yard Singleton pass to Henderson after Singleton faked a run. That play was set up by a 28-yard Millet scramble.
Acadiana held East St. John to a three-and-out early in the second quarter, and took over after a short punt to the ESJ 27. Alexander scored on a 1-yard touchdown after eight plays.
“Our kids have been deep in these playoffs for three straight years,” said Davidson, who has guided the Rams to three straight title game appearances. “They believe we can do it again…but it’s tough when you have a first round game that extends you so much.”