ESJ to be tested again

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011



RESERVE — East St. John finished tangling with one traditional power Friday night, only to move onto another one.

After falling in a 27-18 slugfest with John Curtis, the Wildcats (1-2) now must turn their attention to defending Class 3A champion Parkview Baptist (1-2), which began its season 0-2 but rebounded last week for a 48-6 win over Redemptorist.

The game is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Joe Keller Stadium.

Like Curtis, Parkview Baptist runs the option, though not the famed Patriots’ veer; it’s a triple-option more reminiscent of the one used by Chan Gailey in his time with Georgia Tech.

A season ago, East St. John’s defense struggled mightily against option teams, culminating with its 56-6 postseason loss to Acadiana.

Curtis did roll up 372 rushing yards on Friday behind its own powerful run game, but the Wildcats were able to force four fumbles and come up with enough stops to stay within striking distance of a victory for most of the night.

“What I was proud of is that Curtis, which epitomizes what we want to be … we hit them in the mouth and forced four turnovers,” said Banko. “Our kids never folded. And it’s exciting … we were able to hold them in check, relatively. We did a lot of things that I thought were very good.”

Banko said that the Parkview option will present his defense with a different look, but a similar challenge and the same overall goal to strive for: stay tough, and stay disciplined.

“The one thing that facing these kinds of teams will accomplish, it forces you to be disciplined,” said Banko. “When I say these games are making us better, that’s what it comes down to. They’re making us tougher and more disciplined. That’s what we need.”

Parkview Baptist and Redemptorist (last year’s second seed entering the Class 3A postseason) each entered Friday’s game in an unfamiliar position at 0-2, but the visiting Eagles all but erased memories of that start with a dominating victory.

The Eagles scored on three consecutive drives early in the first half, aided by two forced turnovers, and never looked back. Quarterback Cole Wilson rushed for three touchdowns. Hunter Brian and Andre Davis also found paydirt on the ground. The Eagles rushed for 231 yards. They return 11 starters from the 2010 championship lineup.

East St. John took leads of 6-0 and 12-6 on Friday against Curtis, a game that pitted Banko against J.T. Curtis; Banko coached under Curtis as an assistant earlier in his career.

But the powerhouse Patriots answered each time, and in fact answered immediately with a touchdown after all three Wildcat scores.

Receiver Deszmann Broussard and quarterback Darion Monroe were the stars of the night for ESJ, their efforts going a long way toward keeping the Wildcats alive. Broussard scored all three ESJ touchdowns, on receptions of six and 42 yards and on an 89-yard kickoff return, the latter of which began the second half and broke a 6-6 tie.

“My blockers always tell me, ‘Dez, run behind me, it’s wide open.’ That put it in my mind,” said Broussard. “We made some big plays tonight, made some big stops. But in the end they converted when they had to and we didn’t.”

Broussard finished with nine receptions for 144 yards.

Monroe totaled 210 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception; his most impressive plays came as he consistently escaped Curtis pressure in the backfield, eluding tacklers and turning what looked to be certain losses into positive plays.

Curtis’ Sherman Badie paced the Patriot rushing attack with 11 carries for 150 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run that effectively put the game away in the fourth quarter, extending a 20-18 lead to 27-18. Quarterback Patrick Morton rushed for three touchdowns.

Broussard’s last touchdown, a 42-yard leaping grab he pulled down in the endzone after Monroe evaded pressure and lofted a pass to him on a fourth-and-13 play, pulled ESJ to within two at 20-18. But ESJ was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play and the extra point spot was pushed back to the 17. ESJ would not convert.

ESJ forced four fumbles and recovered all of them, three coming on defense and one on punt coverage.

“That was very important,” said ESJ safety Leonard Davis. “We know that the way Curtis runs the ball, they’re good for at least three a play. We knew turnovers would be a big deal.”

Said Banko,” We ask for three a game. We got four tonight.”