Monroe run, trick play fuels ESJ comeback win over Tigers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2011



RESERVE — It’s East St. John, it’s Hahnville, and over the years fans attending the game could more or less expect a memorable, down-to-the-wire experience.

They got another on Friday night.

The Wildcats (5-2, 2-0) overcame a 21-7 deficit at halftime, rallying for a 27-21 District 8-5A victory at home over the archrival Tigers (3-4, 1-1).

Quarterback Darion Monroe ran for a 9-yard touchdown with 1:18 left and completed a 2-point conversion to Marcus Robinson to put his team ahead 27-21.

“It was a pass play,” said Monroe, who ran the ball in on a play that at first looked like a delayed draw. “I just made it happen, took off … I just saw green (in front of him).”

Hahnville picked up one first down on its final drive, but was held to four straight Ronnie Greene incompletions, the last broken up by ESJ defensive back and freshman Xavier Lewis.

“We’ve got four (freshman) back there,” said ESJ coach Phillip Banko. “It’s fun watching them play and grow.”

Hahnville played the game without quarterback Easton Melancon, who came down with an illness earlier that day. So Greene, a senior, stepped in at quarterback from his usual wide receiver position. The Tigers employed a very run heavy attack, be it via Greene’s legs or the Tiger backs, for the majority of the night.

“We didn’t expect that. We’d seen him in the Wildcat at quarterback, but not for the whole game,” said ESJ defensive tackle Gerron Borne, an Arizona commitment. “We knew we just had to play smart and disciplined no matter who was back there … This is a big rivalry, and we knew once we got down by two scores we had to turn it up and get the ball back for our offense.”

But in the second half, the ESJ defense allowed no points and just five first downs.

“They were doing a real good job moving it on the ground,” said ESJ coach Phillip Banko. “At halftime I just said forget it, we were going to make them throw … we started closing their running gaps.”

The turning point in the game came early in the fourth quarter. Hahnville’s defense had frustrated ESJ all night, containing Monroe and his wide receivers and forcing them to take short completions, if any. But that changed on an unlikely play — ESJ called for a flea flicker type play — the ball was handed off to tailback Kadeem Vance and handed to Deszmann Broussard on an end around before Broussard flipped it to Monroe; the first exchange was rough and the second worse, as Broussard dropped the ball.

But he’d pick it up and flip it back to Monroe, who threw deep and found Rashad Green for a 56-yard touchdown.

“(Broussard) stuck with the play and made a good recovery to get it to me,” said Monroe. “It wasn’t a great exchange, but he got it to me and I threw it up.”

The snap on the extra point attempt was errant and ESJ had to settle for an eight-point deficit, but the momentum shift had occurred.

Hahnville’s next possession saw a three-and-out, which ESJ took advantage of to take the ball on a short field, at the HHS 42. Monroe came up big again on the third play of the drive, a 28-yard rushing score on an option keeper in which he ran to the outside and blasted past the defense. That made it 21-19 with 7:53 left to play; a two-point pass attempt to Green was broken up by HHS cornerback Tyren Hills.

Hahnville rode the run into ESJ territory, looking to whittle the clock down and perhaps take a game-clinching score. But While HHS pounded out two first downs, the Wildcat defense held firm and forced a punt. Hahnville did likewise, but ESJ used its time outs and held Hahnville to another three and out. ESJ took over at its own 46 after a nice punt return by Monroe with 2:23 left.

From there, Monroe hit Green for 11 yards, then Broussard for 13. A screen pass to Jalen Kenner went for just two; but on a third-and-eight play, HHS was flagged for pass interference, then for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The end result was ESJ marched to the HHS 8, and it took Monroe one play to reach paydirt. He took a snap from shotgun, surveyed the defense, then ran up the middle into the endzone after a delay.

Hahnville built its lead thanks to a big lift from special teams. An ESJ fumble on a punt attempt lead to a Jamon Lathers recovery and a subsequent Greene 1-yard touchdown run. Then, with HHS leading 14-7, Dalton Simon blocked a punt and Jovon Murray recovered in the endzone for a second quarter touchdown.

Kenner capped a five-play drive in the first quarter with a 6-yard touchdown run, set up by a 45-yard screen pass completion from Monroe to Robinson.

But HHS’ defense was ferocious for most of the night, keeping the ESJ offense in front of them and pressuring Monroe relentlessly.

“Their defense was awesome,” said Monroe. “They usually come out, man to man, cover zero, and blitz you. Tonight, they played a lot of Cover 3 and we had to make adjustments … they had two spies at linebacker, they contained at the ends, and I didn’t really have anywhere to run. But in the second half, we started seeing things open up.”