Wildcats fall to Raiders in 14-0 slugfest

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2013


LAPLACE – On the day of the late Jeff Russell’s funeral, East St. John took the field Saturday night intent on making their former defensive coordinator proud.
And though the Wildcats fell short of upsetting defending Class 5A champion Rummel, ESJ head coach Phillip Banko had no doubt that Russell, who passed away last month after a battle with cancer, was smiling down on their effort after the favored Raiders captured a hard-fought 14-0 victory at Joe Yenni Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
“He said that on the day he’d be buried, he wanted his ashes spread out by the 18th hole,” said Banko. “Then he wanted everyone to have a party. He wanted to be left out on the field, and that’s what we came out to do tonight, leave it all out here on the field.’
“We played to make him proud tonight. And I know he’s looking down and very proud of everyone tonight.”
The game’s result was in doubt throughout as the teams engaged in a defensive slugfest.
The Wildcats had the opportunity to take early control of things midway through the first half after ESJ drove into the Rummel redzone. Quarterback Xavier Lewis picked up a fumbled snap and made something out of a broken play on a fourth-and-six, the LSU commitment rushing for seven yards to convert a first down.
On a third and 6 from the 11, Lewis scrambled and looked to have found Jacob McNeil, who brought down an apparent reception at the 1-yard line. But Lewis was ruled to have been over the line of scrimmage on the pass, and ESJ settled on a field goal attempt that went wide left.
Rummel broke the scoreless tie in the second quarter on Jordan Nami’s 19-yard screen pass to Ivan Phipps, who scored to make it 7-0. Nami made a key 30-yard run on the drive to set things up.
The Raiders were able to move the ball on the ground for much of the night, rushing for 176 yards. But the Wildcats were able to keep those yards from resulting in points, as the Raiders stalled out in ESJ territory on a number of occasions. Rummel missed two field goals in the game.
“I was as nervous tonight as I was before the state championship game,” said Rummel coach Jay Roth. “They’ve got an excellent team at East St. John. We didn’t score many points, but we were able to move it on the ground and keep our defense off the field. We didn’t turn it over. I was pleased with that.”
Late in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were held to a 4th and 3 at their own 27. ESJ elected to go for a fake punt, and Rummel stopped it to force a turnover on downs.
“That was my fault,” said Banko.
“We had an option in there. The up-back didn’t get the call. It’s something we’ve got to clean up … if we execute it correctly, that could have been a house-call … They put everyone in the box and we didn’t get it.”
That gave the Raiders the opportunity to ice the game. ESJ came close to forcing a turnover — a potential fumble recovery was negated when the runner was ruled down – and Nami scored on a 1-yard keeper to make it 14-0.
“They’re number one in the state for a reason,” said Banko. “That was a heavyweight fight. We pushed them to their limit, and they pushed us to our limit. You love that this early in the season.”