Lewis and Anderson pave way in 4th as Wildcats beat Tarpons, 50-19

Published 4:45 am Saturday, September 27, 2014


RESERVE — As East St. John and South Lafourche entered the fourth quarter locked in a tight three-point game, the setup was there for the second thrilling finish between the teams in two years.

In a different way, it was.

There was be no photo finish in this one but there were plenty of fourth quarter fireworks as the Wildcats piled up 28 fourth quarter points to come away with a 50-19 victory in the District 7-5A opener for both teams.

“It was a tale of two halves,” East St. John coach Phillip Banko said. “We played a very tough, physical football team tonight. We found ourselves in a battle. Lucky for us, we’ve had to battle every week this season. And that’s what we’ll keep doing. Keep fighting, keep battling.”

Both Xavier Lewis and Nigel Anderson broke 80-plus yard runs in the fourth quarter as an ESJ rushing attack that struggled at times early broke down the Tarpons defensive front. In all, ESJ scored three times from more than 71 yards in the final frame, with backup quarterback Phil Adams connecting with Shedrick Colbert on a pass play from that distance to round out the Wildcats’ scoring.

After a tough pre-district slate that saw ESJ face defending state champions John Curtis and Rummel, Lewis said the Wildcats were eager to show their stuff in district play.

“We know we have a lot of doubters,” Lewis said. “We wanted to show the world what we can do. We can go a long way.”

Lewis finished with 156 yards and three touchdowns on six carries, while completing 6 of 13 passes for 91 yards. Anderson carried 16 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis also returned a punt for a touchdown, giving him four total on the night.

“Xavier and I knew they were focused in on us,” Anderson said. “We knew we had to come through when we needed a play late.”

The kicking game loomed large in shifting momentum in the Wildcats’ direction, after South Lafourche (1-3) carried a 13-12 lead into halftime.  A Tarpons mistake came back to bite them when a low snap led to the punter being ruled down at the ESJ 19 on fourth down, leading to a Lino Barrera field goal that pushed the Wildcats ahead by two.

Then ESJ (2-2) forced a three-and-out and Lewis again showed why he was LSU early commitment: he took the ensuing punt the distance, rocketing 58 yards down the sideline to make it a 22-13 ESJ lead.

South Lafourche quarterback Harvey Allen wouldn’t let his team go quietly. On a third down and 18, Allen hunted down and found a big play, throwing a touchdown bomb to Sharrkin Dillon for 50 yards, making it 22-19 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Banko said. “He made us miss plenty of times tonight. We do our tackling drills three days a week. We might have to go to four after that.”

The Wildcats responded with an eight-play scoring drive. Lewis connected with Jarrod Jackson for 14 yards to convert a key fourth and five before Lewis capped the drive with his own 4-yard touchdown run, making it 28-19.

Allen led his team down to the ESJ 21, but a heave for the endzone was picked off by Ahmani Martin with 9:10 left to play.

It opened the floodgates. Lewis kept on ESJ’s next play, found the second level and then a second gear, dashing through a crease for 82 yards and a score before passing to Jackson or a two-point conversion, making it 36-19.

Then it was Anderson’s turn. He scored on the Wildcats’ very next play from scrimmage, ripping off an 85-yard run to make it 42-19.

“I kept asking them, saying, ‘Let’s open up the playbook,’” Anderson said. “Let’s hit them with some counters, the stretch.”

Added Lewis, “We made some adjustments at halftime. We were making a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball, and we knew what we needed to fix.”

Allen finished with 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He completed 7 of 24 pass attempts for 109 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

He put South Lafourche up at halftime with an 11-yard touchdown scramble as time expired in the second quarter.