Wildcats, Tarpons set for district slugfest

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2013


LAPLACE—There have been no gimmies on the East St. John schedule so far. Their district opener doesn’t figure to be, either.
Two talented teams looking to turn momentum back in their favor will butt heads as District 7-5A play cranks up with East St. John traveling to South Lafourche.
The teams are mirror images in some ways, both boasting stout defenses and struggling offenses through three weeks. East St. John has scored just 14 total points this season against a slate of opponents that include defending 5A champion Rummel and nationally-ranked John Curtis. South Lafourche, meanwhile, allowed just seven points in its first two weeks before a 42 point explosion at Shaw. It scored 27 of its 34 points this season in a shutout win over South Plaquemines and was shut out 7-0 against Landry-Walker.
“They’re going to be a challenge, no doubt,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “They’ll run three, four, five man fronts and they blitz from all over the place. They give you a ton to get ready for.”
Last season, South Lafourche went 9-0 in the regular season before dropping its first game in the 5A playoffs. Setting out on the road is a task as well. The Wildcats come off of a two-game homestand to head to South Lafourche, which Banko notes is known for a tremendous homefield advantage.
“It’s hard to go there and win. It’s always been hard to go to South Lafourche and win,” said Banko. “It’s always a great atmosphere there. We’ve got a lot to look forward to, but we’ve also got a ton to take care of before we head up there this week.”
In terms of total yardage, the Wildcats’ loss to Curtis was not nearly as lopsided as the 39-7 score indicates: Curtis gained 274 yards of offense to East St. John’s 200.
But turnovers and poor kick return coverage proved mortal wounds for ESJ’s chances. The Wildcats fumbled four times, losing two, and Curtis intercepted them twice.  Curtis’ return game was highlighted by Terrence Alexander’s 94-yard kickoff return that all but turned things in the Patriots’ favor for good.
“The fumbles, the interceptions. You can’t do it,” said Banko. “Against any good team, you do that and you’re in a world of trouble.’
“Physically, they didn’t blow us off the ball. That’s a tribute to the young men here. But we’ve got to take care of the ball or we’re going to keep coming up empty on our drives.”
Offensively, South Lafourche is led by quarterback Dominick Fillinich, who passed for 195 yards and rushed for 56 yards and a score last week, and running back Jake Williams. On the defensive side, linebacker Jake Guidry is a player to watch.
Both teams are tough in the trenches. The matchup between East St. John’s stellar defensive line and an experienced Tarpons offensive line that brings back three starters could be the highlight of the night.