Wildcats take down defending 3A champs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011



RESERVE — A week after his team fell to state power John Curtis, Coach Phillip Banko’s East St. John Wildcats felled Parkview Baptist, which he called “The Baton Rouge John Curtis.”

And after that slate, he said, a 50-50 success rate isn’t a bad place to be.

“Parkview’s played for the Class 3A championship six times in the last 10 years. They’ve won four times. So obviously, they’ve been one of the best football teams in our state,” said Banko. “They’ve got huge tradition, there. To go out and get a victory, you bet I’m excited about that.”

Banko’s Wildcats came out with a 28-16 victory over the Eagles at Joe Keller Memorial Stadium. His team now sits at 2-2 and seeks to enter district play with a winning mark with a win this Friday over Class 2A Capitol.

The Lions (1-3) scored their first victory last week, defeating Southern Lab, 20-14.

East St. John, once again, thrived off of the exploits of quarterback Darion Monroe. The Texas A&M commitment completed 11 of his 23 pass attempts for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while running 15 times for 60 yards and another score on the ground. Monroe also intercepted a pass on defense and recovered a fumble.

He spread the ball around on offense. Marcus Robinson had the biggest night, hauling in four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Rashad Green caught three passes for 78 yards. Deszmann Broussard had 60 yards on two catches; he also ran for a score. Monroe also found Kadeem Vance for a 23-yard touchdown play.

ESJ led 14-0 in the first quarter, but Parkview looked to shift momentum after it blocked a punt and took over at the ESJ 15; Brodie Burkhalter ran for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 14-7.

But the Wildcats answered in two plays on Broussard’s 4-yard touchdown run. Parkview cut the Wildcats’ lead to 21-14 at the half on Hezeikiah Randolph’s 8-yard touchdown run, but Monroe connected with Robinson on a 25-yard touchdown pass early in the second half to extend the lead again. Leading 28-14 with 3:39 left, ESJ forced and recovered a fumble to halt a potential Parkview scoring drive at the ESJ 5; they would take an intentional safety with little time remaining as to not risk another blocked punt and touchdown.

“One of the things they take pride in is that they’re going to come out and keep hitting you, and make you quit. We never quit,” said Banko. “It was a 15-round heavyweight fight the whole way.”

ESJ was missing some key starters defensively, including safety Clarence Scott, who has already made some of the season’s more memorable plays. But ESJ was able to limit the Eagles’ option offense, the kind of attack that gave ESJ the most trouble of any during its 2010 campaign.

Another big key was the team’s ability to convert third downs, something that Banko and several players pointed to as a problem area in its 27-18 loss to Curtis in Week 3.

“We converted 70 percent on third, which is huge,” said Banko. “And we converted some fourth downs as well. We emphasized it in film and in practice and I think our guys were more aware. I always say, if we get one yard on first down, hey, I’m excited. It’s not a negative play. It gives you a chance on third down.”

Capitol boasts a pair of extremely talented pass receivers in Travis Hebert and Jonathan Banks. Hebert, in particular, will line up at tailback, wide receiver and even tight end. It seeks to spread the field with receiving options, which it did successfully in its victory against Southern Lab. The Kittens were undefeated entering the game, but Capitol shocked them after being outscored 122-12 over its first three games.

“They’re vastly improved from their first game,” said ESJ coach Phillip Banko. “They’ll make an impact in Class 2A. Their quarterback can run. They throw a lot of screens and use motion, so we have to be aware and play assignment football.

“It’ll be a challenge. We have to start fast and finish strong. That’s something we’ve strived for, but we haven’t done it yet.”