East St. John returns home with win

Published 3:05 am Saturday, October 6, 2012




RESERVE — Home sweet home.

East St. John endured a long wait for its first home game of 2012, but it was well worth it. An inspired Wildcats defense forced four turnovers — returning one for a touchdown — and recorded a shutout as ESJ defeated John Ehret in the opening week of District 8-5A play, 28-0, at Joe Keller Memorial Stadium.

East St. John (2-3) was scheduled to play its season opener against Carencro in Reserve, but Hurricane Issac nixed those plans — and plenty more. East St. John incurred severe flooding; the same was true for a number of coaches, faculty members, and countless players and students.

For a night, all of that was forgotten, as all assembled at Joe Keller to see their school represented on what turned out to be a picture perfect night of Wildcats football.

“It’s very special,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “The field wasn’t great, but the jambalaya sure is. So are the people. And that’s all we care about.”

Defensive end Charlie Payne intercepted a pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Destin Stewart collected two interceptions. Leonard Davis notched a passing and a rushing touchdown.

“There’s so much love out here,” said Payne. “You see your family and the community. It felt great to play out here again.”

Added Davis, “I told Charlie Payne, you get our back, we’ll get yours. The defense kept forcing turnovers and when they gave us the ball, we went out to get a touchdown.”

Ehret (0-5) opened the game like a team intent on washing away a winless start, driving into Wildcats territory, but stalling at the ESJ 26 after a Darrel Williams pass on fourth and nine fell incomplete in the endzone.

East St. John build on the momentum that stop created, embarking on a run-heavy drive that saw Kadeem Vance chew up 26 yards and Davis 28, including a nifty 10-yard run that set up his 1-yard plunge for a touchdown. After an Ehret penalty, ESJ went for two and Nigel Anderson pushed his way in to make it 8-0 with 11:11 left in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts as a quick first half rolled along. Ehret’s final possession of the half saw it nearly tie things up. Williams — a tailback who lined up primarily in the Wildcat all night — ripped off an 18 yard run to push Ehret to their own 44. D’Quan Jenkins then rushed for 19, then Williams broke runs of 28 and 10 yards to set Ehret up inside the Wildcats’ 5 with 56 seconds left in the first half.

But on a first down run, Williams was stuffed by Payne for a three yard loss. With 11 seconds left, and Ehret out of timeouts, Williams carried off right tackle and to the outside on third-and-goal from the two, but ESJ tackled him just before he could score, and time expired.

“That stop was big. Then we went into the half, I took that ‘D’ I drew up and threw it in the trash,” said Banko. “We made some adjustments. We had eight in the box and looked to take away the edge, make (Williams) run between the tackles.

“That back is good. He might be the best in the metro area … We made him earn his yards.”

Stewart victimized Williams on Ehret’s first possession of the second half, intercepting a pass over the middle on third and 10 to set ESJ up at the Ehret 26. ESJ overcame three penalties to score its second touchdown; Davis converted a second-and-23 with his legs, setting up a Nigel Anderson score to make it 15-0.

The Patriots drove into ESJ territory again on their next drive, but Payne came up with perhaps the night’s biggest play; dropping back into coverage from his end position, he intercepted a screen pass and rumbled 62 yards for a score to make it 21-0; the extra point attempt was no good.

“We practiced that all week, defending the screen,” said Payne. “When I saw it coming, I did what I was supposed to do. Then I just saw green grass all in front of me and I ran.”

Ehret came up empty again after another seemingly productive drive when Williams fumbled at the ESJ 39 one the first play of the fourth quarter, with Daniel Ellis recovering.

Special teams’ set up ESJ’s final touchdown. Deszmann Broussard returned an Ehret punt inside the Patriots’ 10. A personal foul on the return backed ESJ up to the 30, but it took just four plays for Davis to dial up Jared Jackson for a 6-yard score.

“The way we’re playing right now, I feel like we can make a run all the way to state,” said Davis. “Tonight was special. We’re all a family, and we play for one another.”