Week 8: East St. John at Destrehan, Friday, Oct. 21
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By RYAN ARENA
RESERVE — For East St. John, there’s no time for rest or contemplation after a dramatic comeback victory over rival Hahnville last week. For Destrehan, there’s simply no room for a loss.
There is plenty at stake this week at Destrehan Friday night, as District 8-5A co-leader East St. John (5-2, 2-0) visits its rival, one reeling after five straight losses, the last two coming by identical 26-20 scores, each in overtime.
Destrehan (2-5, 0-2) has suffered a number of key injuries, most notably to standout wide receiver Rickey Jefferson and quarterback Dillan Dent. Jefferson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will miss the remainder of the season; Dent has missed time with multiple injuries over the past two weeks and backup quarterback Donovan Isom has stepped in.
East St. John coach Phillip Banko knows his team is facing traveling to face a foe that is desperate to turn its season around, and that it’s one that isn’t lacking for enough talent to give any team difficulty.
“Their defensive line has three guys headed to Division I schools,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve got a sophomore-heavy offensive line. So it’s a major concern. We’re getting these guys ready to see their blitzes, to see their stunts, and be accountable.”
Bryan Singleton, Marrick Charles and Derrick Robinson comprise the DHS defensive line and linebacker T.J. Chopin is another major force.
Offensively, with Jefferson and now Dent down, the load has fallen on running back Kevin Smith, and Smith has been up to the task. Smith plays heavily on both sides of the ball — he registered 15 tackles last week at free safety — and returns kicks. In all, he totaled 250 all-purpose yards Friday, with 90 yards and a touchdown coming on the ground.
“Playing both ways, in Class 5A … Kevin is Kevin,” said Destrehan coach Chris Stroud. “You can’t say enough. I think our entire offense has raised its play, covering for these injuries. He’s certainly one who’s stepped up.”
Stopping Smith will likely be Banko’s chief concern. For Stroud, the task will be finding a way to limit the damage inflicted by ESJ quarterback Darion Monroe and his myriad weapons in the receiving corps and backfield.
On Friday night, Hahnville indeed kept Monroe corralled until the fourth quarter, when he broke loose and accounted for all three of his touchdowns on the night. It was enough to lead ESJ back from a 21-7 deficit.
“Whenever you play East St. John, you know it’s a big rivalry and that your kids are going to be up for a big game,” said Stroud. “(Monroe) is a big time weapon. It’s tough to contain that type of quarterback. The good thing for us is that we’ve played a similar type of quarterback in each of the last two weeks, with Ehret and Higgins.”
Stroud said that he’s been proud of the character his team has shown in dealing with a streak of tough losses, three of which coming either in overtime or by two points in regulation.
“How we battle, the effort we’ve continued to show, there have definitely been encouraging things,” he said. “There is still a lot of good football to be played. What’s been our undoing is we’ve just been unable to finish.”
Banko said the victory over Hahnville was a great confidence boost, especially for his younger players. Defensively, ESJ held Hahnville to no second half points. As a whole, the Wildcats bounced back from three quarters of offensive frustration and some key special teams mishaps.
Hahnville played without quarterback Easton Melancon, who missed the game due to illness. Ronnie Greene started in his stead.
A fumbled punt put ESJ in a early hole as Jamon Lathers recovered and set up Greene’s 1-yard touchdown run; his 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Bryant put HHS up 14-0 in the first before ESJ fired back on Jalen Kenner’s 6-yard touchdown run.
But Hahnville extended its lead to two scores in the second quarter when Dalton Simon blocked a punt and Jovon Murray recovered for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
Hahnville’s front four tallied five sacks on the night and the Tiger defense allowed virtually nothing on the ground.
“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.”
East St. John looked primed for another punt in the fourth quarter until it broke through 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; 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. “I just threw it up.”
Monroe came up big again on the third play of the next drive, a 28-yard rushing score on an option keeper. 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.
The Wildcat defense held firm and forced a HHS 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.
From there, Monroe completed three passes and on a third-and-eight play, HHS was flagged for pass interference, then for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It took Monroe one play to reach paydirt from the HHS 8. ESJ held again, finishing a second half that saw the Tigers gather just five first downs.
“We didn’t expect (to see Greene at quarterback). 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.”