Turnovers lead to Comet downfall at East Jeff

Published 3:07 am Saturday, September 14, 2013


LAPLACE — Ball security was at the top of the objectives for St. Charles Catholic entering Friday night’s game at Joe Yenni Stadium, as opposing East Jefferson ranks among the state’s most dangerous foes.

Instead, the Comets lost the turnover battle convincingly, and along with it the game. East Jefferson secured a 35-17 victory in a battle of ranked teams, taking advantage of six Comet turnovers, four of those coming in the second half.

“I felt like our whole football team came into this game intimidated. We didn’t play hard, and you saw guys out there with big eyes, caught in the headlights,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica. “Give (East Jefferson) credit. Their team speed gave us a lot of problems. They executed and did what they needed to do. We needed to excel in all three phases to have a chance tonight and we failed to do that on all counts.”

St. Charles (1-1) couldn’t solve Warriors’ quarterback Eugene Wells, who followed up a three touchdown game last week with a four rushing score performance Friday night, sparking the EJHS’ option offense early with a 90-yard scoring run. Wells rushed for 138 yards on 17 carries. Ronald Green complimented Wells with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown.

The Comets’ Austin Weber passed for 163 yards and rushed for 113 and a score, but threw three interceptions.

SCC got on the board first on a Patrick Juneau field goal, but Wells answered on EJHS’ next possession with the most explosive play of the night.

“We had a check on the play,” said Wells. “I changed the play at the line … We just popped off a big play from there.”

East Jefferson (2-0) took advantage of good field position to score its next touchdown, this time taking over on the SCC 38 and scoring in seven plays on a 12-yard Wells keeper with 5:51 to go before halftime.

The Comets appeared to seize momentum just before halftime when linebacker Connor Smith forced and recovered a fumble, returning it to the East Jefferson 5. Two plays later, Weber was in for a touchdown to make it 14-10. SCC, however, was flagged for taunting, and it came back to haunt the Comets: Green returned the ensuing kick after the 15-yard penalty and took it all the way to the SCC 35 with a little over a minute left before halftime. Three plays later, Wells faked a handoff up the middle and found daylight up the sideline, scoring a 26-yard touchdown to make it 21-10 at half.

“We know we’ve got a good group of skill players out there with tremendous speed,” said East Jefferson coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “We just try to put those guys in a good position to get one-on-one and make plays.”

The Comets turned the ball over on each of their first three possessions of second half. EJHS answered with touchdowns on the first two to make it 35-10.

Then the game was delayed for nearly an hour due to lightning. After the teams came back on the field, SCC put together its best drive of the night, capped by a 10-yard Erron Lewis scoring run that made it 35-10.

East Jefferson fumbled away its next possession and again, SCC seemed primed to take advantage, marching into Warrior territory. But on first down from the East Jefferson 29,  linebacker Edgar Jackson intercepted Weber’s throw over the middle, all but ending the Comet comeback threat with 7:04 left to play.

“That was a great play,” said East Jefferson coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “If they go in and score there, its an 11-point game. We needed a big play and he supplied it.”

The Comets had chanced to cut into the EJHS advantage. The Warriors fumbled eight times, but SCC came up with just two recoveries.

“We were unbelievably inept offensively after the delay,” said Saltaformaggio. “The last 14 minutes of the game, we couldn’t even get a snap off. I’m just glad (the delay) came later on in the night.”

Monica said the inability to turn those mistakes into turnovers came down to  lack of focus.

“You can tell when a team has tremendous intensity and focus by what happens when there’s a loose ball,” he said. “On the second play tonight, there was one lying on the turf and we didn’t have anyone ready to jump on it.’

“I saw a lot of guys back down tonight. I saw it in their eyes. That’s really troubling to me. I never thought I’d see that from a Comets football team.”