ESJ, DHS set for major district battle

Published 1:35 am Wednesday, October 17, 2012



LAPLACE — For Destrehan, a win this week would be about making a statement.

For East St. John, it would be about survival.

It should be an incredibly competitive and heated encounter at Joe Keller Stadium this Friday night as Destrehan visits East St. John in District 8-5A competition.

At 4-2 overall and a perfect 2-0 in district play, Destrehan has made strides toward what returning coach Stephen Robicheaux said was his team’s goal in the preseason: to earn back respect for a program that missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

But for East St. John, any loss from here on out could prove fatal for hopes of postseason play. ESJ endured a tough predistrict slate, going 1-3 in the face of top-ranked foes and in the wake of the school being flooded out by Hurricane Issac; a loss to Hahnville last week dropped East St. John to 2-4 on the season and 1-1 in district play.

ESJ is currently on the outskirts of the top 32 power point rankings in Class 5A. The team may have to win District 8-5A to reach the playoffs.

That’s the assumption that ESJ coach Phillip Banko is operating under.

“To go to the playoffs, we have to beat them. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it,” said Banko.

East St. John outgained Hahnville by 140 yards Friday, but a number of miscues did in the Wildcats.

A trio of Leonard Davis interceptions hurt, one returned for a touchdown, and a fumble led to another short HHS score.

A bad snap on special teams led to a safety, and ESJ missed a pair of field goals.

“We lost by 10, so you can do the math on that,” said Banko. “Otherwise, it was a heavyweight fight.”

Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said that he believes East St. John is a much better team than its record indicates.

“They kinda remind me of us, in the way their team is built,” said Robicheaux. “They’re a very good team that’s had a couple of bad things go against them in games.

“This game is going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. We have to control the line and contain their big play people.”

East St. John has to overcome the loss of one of those “big play people,” leading receiver Dez Broussard. Broussard broke his ankle last week during practice. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

In his stead, a number of Wildcats stepped up offensively Friday, including sophomore receiver Jared Jackson, who caught eight passes for 130 yards.

“(Jackson) had a heck of a game. He wasn’t the only one to step in,” said Banko. “Jyren Jackson caught a two-point conversion.

“Then we’ve got a freshman running back, Donnell Rachael, who stepped in and made some plays.”

Banko said that replacing Broussard will take a committee approach, and it’s not limited to wide receiver; Broussard was also a top weapon in the return game.

“We’re using (running back) Kadeem Vance a little more as a receiver,” said Banko. “We’re mixing some guys in. We’re still trying to figure out the return game. We miss (Broussard) … We’re going to spread the wealth, but at the same time we have to continue to do what we do.”

Destrehan’s spread offensive attack has rounded into form, especially over the past two weeks where DHS has scored 41.5 points per game in wins over Ehret and Higgins.

The addition of Will Mathews to the starting lineup has paid dividends. He rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns and has fit like a glove in the zone-read option that Destrehan has employed this season.

Donovan Isom has also made a big impact with his legs, rushing for 67 yards last week to go with over 200 passing yards.

“They do a real good job with that zone-read,” said Banko. “A lot of teams concentrate on the back, then the quarterback gets you. They’ve got a solid offensive line. Their middle linebacker is one of the best in the state. This will be a challenge, and we look forward to it.”