Wildcats conquer playoff woes, topple ‘Saders

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011



RESERVE — The drought is over.

“We got the monkey off our backs,” said East St. John quarterback Darion Monroe.

Monroe and his teammates were elated Saturday after a job extremely well done. No. 18 seed East St. John had just finished off a dominating 35-3 victory over No. 15 Brother Martin in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game, snapping the Wildcats’ streak of first round playoff losses at six.

There were tears in the eyes of some players and fans after the win, one coach Phillip Banko knew his community desperately thirsted for upon his hiring as the school’s football coach and athletic director.

Banko said back then that the first order of business was to end the team’s winless playoff drought.

Business was booming on Saturday.

“There’s just a weight lifted off our shoulders,” said Monroe, who accounted for three scores. “Everyone counted us out against Brother Martin, but we planned on coming in and getting a win. We think we can go deep into this.”

Said safety Clarence Scott, “This is just great. It’s wonderful. From the first quarter on, we had the mindset to dominate. To do what we had to do, all day. And we did it.”

But the celebration was over on Monday as the Wildcats got back to work, preparing for a daunting task. East St. John will face No. 2 seed Jesuit in Reserve in a regional round game on Friday night.

Jesuit (11-0) is undefeated, all but one victory (a 29-28 win over East Jefferson) coming by 15 points or more.

The Blue Jays overpower teams with a massive offensive line that averages 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, and a stable of impressive rushers led by Paul Stanton and augmented by slash quarterback Cameron Dobbins, who will line up in multiple spots.

“They run the ball as effectively as anyone I’ve seen and that we’ve played,” said Banko. “They’re the number two team in the state. And now that St. Paul is out, they’re the top team.”

Defensively, Jesuit allows little; the Blue Jays allowed over 20 points just once in their first eight games. The unit stumbled a bit late in the season without standout linebacker Deion Jones, who missed time with an injury. But he is expected to be back on Friday night.

Jesuit, a quarterfinalist last season, brings a senior-laden lineup to Joe Keller Stadium this week, one that boasts 19 senior starters.

It defeated Sulphur Saturday, 40-14, at Tad Gormley Stadium. Stanton started and rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on his first five touches. From there, Jesuit called upon Austin Duncan, a more bruising rusher, who carried 23 times for 128 yards and two scores.

Earlier that day, East St. John rolled to victory.

The Wildcats (8-3) punted on their first possession, but would score touchdowns on their next four. When East St. John would finally punt, early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats’ Troy Gerard recovered a fumble by the Crusaders at the Martin 2, setting up Jalen Kenner’s second touchdown of the day, a 35-3 lead, and setting the stage for a postgame celebration.

Darion Monroe had a big day, passing for two scores and rushing for another.

His first touchdown came from eight yards away after his own 45-yard punt return set ESJ up at the Brother Martin 38.

After ESJ forced another punt, the Wildcats took just four plays to move to a 13-0 lead when Monroe dialed up a deep pass to Marcus Robinson, who got behind the Crusader defense and scored from 54 yards away.

Brother Martin got on the board after a 12 play drive, but ESJ’s defense stiffened in the redzone and made Martin settle for a Michael McCarthy field goal to make it 13-3.

Monroe capped the 12-play, 81 yard drive with a 13-yard pass to the back of the end zone to Broussard.

Monroe scored on a 2-point run as well to make it 21-3 at halftime. ESJ never looked back.

“We’ve got one of the best receiving corps in the state,” said Monroe. “It’s deep and experienced. So why not throw and spread it around?”

Just as he understood the significance of the streak when he accepted the job, the victory’s meaning was not lost on Banko in the aftermath.

“It means a lot. We broke it,” said Banko. “You can see the tears in the eyes of fans, of players … they’re all proud of their Wildcats.”