Complete effort guides Destrehan past ESJ, 38-14

Published 3:31 am Saturday, November 9, 2013


LAPLACE — To be a state champion, a team usually has to be proficient in all three phases of play. Destrehan looked the part Friday night.

DHS set up its first touchdown off of a fumble return, returned a punt for a touchdown and kept East St. John from gaining any offensive flow en route to a 38-14 victory at Joe Keller Memorial Stadium.

The win seals a tie atop the District 7-5A standings, with Destrehan and East St. John sharing the league crown with one district loss each. By virtue of its head-to-head win and higher ranking, DHS is likely to receive the power points boost that goes to a district champion.

For not its forfeited game against South Lafourche Oct. 25, Destrehan would be undefeated, the Wildcats winning all 10 of its games on the field.

And last, but not least, it marks a return to the postseason for Destrehan after a three-season hiatus.

“Our offensive line did a great job tonight,” said DHS’ Donovan Isom, who rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another. We knew we had to overcome (East St. John’s defensive front), and we did that. My guys up front and my receivers just made everything easier for me.”

ESJ’s best chance to rally came after a spectacular Xavier Lewis touchdown run of 45 yards that capped a 91-yard scoring drive, Lewis completely reversing field to outrun the defense and score.  ESJ (6-4, 6-1) forced a Destrehan punt on DHS’ next possession.

But an Elijah Duhe sack on third down forced an ESJ punt, and Alfred Smith did the rest, taking the kick back 70 yards to make it 31-14 and effectively seal the win.

“That was a backbreaker,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “We tried to kick it out of bounds … we were set up for that, and when the kick didn’t make it, (Smith) did a great job making us pay.”

Destrehan’s explosive offense wasn’t going to be enough to overpower East St. John by itself on this night. ESJ forced Destrehan to punt seven times — DHS had punted just 12 times in its previous nine games combined. The ESJ front four also pressured DHS quarterback Donovan Isom throughout the night.

But Isom and the offense were still potent, and when an opportunity arose, DHS (9-1, 6-1)cashed in.

Late in the first quarter, with the teams locked in a scoreless tie, Xavier Lewis completed a pass to Shedrick Colbert for a first down at midfield, but Destrehan linebacker Rae’Juan Marbley stripped Colbert and returned the fumble to the ESJ 10-yard-line. On DHS’ next play, Isom called his own number and ran in on a draw to make it 7-0 with 19 seconds left in the opening quarter.

ESJ attempted to respond on the back of a big kickoff return by Antonio Parks of 58 yards and then a DHS facemask penalty. The DHS defense held, though, and an ESJ 30-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Destrehan’s next drive was highlighted by the first of two big second quarter connections from Isom to Kirk Merritt, this one going for 60 yards. A Darren Williams hit on Isom nearly forced a fumble, but the loose ball was ruled an incomplete pass. That led to a 30-yard Cameron Walsh field goal.

East St. John got on the board with 5:44 left in the first half thanks to two Lewis-to-Kyle Patterson hookups, the first a 62-yarder over the middle and then an 18-yard score on a post to make it 10-7.

But after a squib kick, DHS took over at the ESJ 49 in good shape to score again. Isom capped this one with a 26-yard pass to Merritt, this one a catch and run up the sideline to make it a 17-7 halftime score.

“He runs a 4.5, so I know I just need to put it out there,” said Isom. “He’s great at coming up big  in those situations.”

ESJ forced a three-and-out to start the second half, but Destrehan seized the momentum back on Korian Reynaud’s interception of Lewis at the DHS 5. Destrehan took the ball 95 yards on the ensuing drive, Isom converting two third downs on passes to John Williams before capping things on a 2-yard scoring run to make it 24-7.

Will Mathews tacked on a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to round out the DHS scoring.

East St. John’s rushing attack was dominant throughout district play, but Destrehan limited that attack, holding tailback Nigel Anderson to 45 yards on 17 carries. Lewis fared better with 104 yards on 11 attempts, but DHS kept ESJ from sustaining drives with any consistency.

Anderson left the game late with what Banko called a tweaked hamstring. The coach said both Anderson and injured linebacker Andrew Weber should return for the team’s first postseason game.

Banko was disappointed with the loss but was optimistic about his team’s prospects going forward into the postseason.

He was just as upbeat about how far his team has come.

“One year and three months ago, I was standing in six feet of water with rattlesnakes all around me,” said Banko. “So for our team to be playing in a game like this, against a top three-ranked team tonight, I can’t think of a better spot to be in.”