East St. John rally falls short against Parkway, 52-25

Published 1:20 am Saturday, November 23, 2013

Contributing Writer

East St. John didn’t give its fans a victory Friday night, but it sure gave them something to remember.

Trailing 45-12 and failing miserably to move the ball or to prevent the Parkway Panthers from doing so, East St. John called on unheralded third-string quarterback Gerald Munoz to try to make something happen.

 That, he did. Munoz led the Wildcats on a 19-point fourth-quarter rally, throwing three touchdown passes to Jarrod Jackson in the span of about four minutes. But it was too little, too late. The No. 2 seed Panthers added one more touchdown before they left Reserve with a 52-25 win to advance to next week’s quarterfinals against Zachary.

 East St. John, the No. 15 seed, finished 7-5.

 Wildcats fans were anxious to see highly-touted Panthers quarterback Brandon Harris, who has already signed to play for LSU. And he certainly put on a good show, passing for 244 yards and three touchdowns and running for two more scores.

 But he wasn’t the only act.

 Six different Parkway players scored as the offense rolled up 404 yards. A total of seven Panthers amassed 160 yards rushing. William McNight scored two touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving. Demetrius McAtee caught a touchdown pass, as did Broderick Johnson. Avery Shoebridge added seven extra points and a 20 yard field goal. Keiuntre Normandin capped the scoring with a 9-yard run late in the game. 

 Despite all that, the Panthers offense was hit-and-miss at times, especially in the second half.

 But Panthers coach David Feaster praised his defense, which held the Wildcats to 87 yards rushing and, until a late push by an unheralded third-string quarterback, 45 yards passing. In fact, it was the Panthers defense that got things started. Dylan Whaley intercepted an Xavier Lewis pass on the second play of the game. On the third play of the game, McNight ran around the left side for a 31-yard touchdown just 24 seconds into the game. The Panthers would score 35 unanswered points before the second quarter was halfway over.

 “The defense was amazing,” Feaster said. “And I was really surprised because I have a lot of respect for the stuff they do. They’ve got great athletes and they’re well-coached. You know, the fourth quarter was just an example of what could have been in the whole game.”

 “They were the better team,” East St. John coach Phil Banko said. “We couldn’t stop them.”

 “I give all the props to them,” said Lewis. “Brandon Harris is the best quarterback in the state.”

 But East St. John managed to give Friday night’s fans something to remember too. On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Munoz took over for Lewis and Nigel Anderson, who had alternated under center.  On his first play, Munoz connected with Jackson for a 20-yard touchdown. After the Wildcats recovered an onsides kick, Munoz directed a 6-play, 56-yard drive, throwing to Jacob McNeil for a 24-yard gain, to Shedrick Colbert for a 10 yard gain and, finally, to Jackson for a 10-yard touchdown with 8:24 remaining.

After the Wildcats recovered another onsides kick at the Panthers 41-yard line, Munoz ran for 22 yards on the first play. He then threw an interception that was nullified by a penalty and gave the Wildcats the ball at the 14-yard line. With 6:36 he connected with Jackson again.

East St. John failed to recover its next onsides kick attempt. Parkway took advantage to score its seventh touchdown of the night.

Munoz thrilled the crowd for the final 3:29 of the game, throwing to McNeill for 18 yards, to Anderson for 11, to Colbert for 31 and running for three first downs. He managed to get the Wildcats to the 8 before a sack pushed them back to the 19. From there, he threw incomplete three times.

 “Who gives up?” Banko said. “Not us. We don’t know any other way. He’s a good senior football player and a quality guy and he came in and did what we asked him to do.”

Before that, the Wildcats had used a combination of Lewis and Nigel Anderson as alternating quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Together they rushed for 83 yards, passed for 44 and threw two interceptions.

 “I’m very disappointed,” Lewis said. “I feel like I let down my teammates. I wanted to go to the Dome so bad.”