• 75°

ESJ coach Foster prepared for challenge

St. John the Baptist Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George didn’t have an easy task to complete when he said in December he would have a new coach for East St. John High School in place by January.

December began with the surprising news veteran head coach and athletic director Phillip Banko was relieved of his duties.

On the surface, it appeared the 6-6 overall football record this season and disappointing 68-14 postseason defeat to Destrehan in the first round of the 5A playoffs did Banko in, but a look at the circumstances showed more than might first meet the eye.

It was Banko who piloted ESJ through the traumatic post-Hurricane Isaac years and led the Wildcats to the playoffs all four of his years at the helm, capturing a district championship along the way.

He won’t be easy to replace, but the man now running the show — Alden Foster — is certainly accomplished enough for the job.

The best part of what Foster brings to the table has nothing to do with being a better version of someone else. Foster needs simply to continue doing what he has already proven to make his hiring beneficial to the students of East St. John.

As head coach at Amite High School for the past seven years, Foster led the Warriors to the state championship game twice, falling in 2011 and 2014. He also led St. Helena to a state finals appearance in 2004.

Although the bridesmaid in those three years, Foster has shown an ability to guide his players to the threshold of greatness, a task that will be a challenge in the football-rich River Parishes.

In championing Foster’s arrival last week, George noted the coach’s passion for all sports as a major positive considering Foster’s role as athletic director.

“He wants to be a part of a program that produces good young men and ladies,” George said, adding to a L’OBSERVATEUR scribe Thursday, “he’s had extraordinary success wherever he’s been. He has a proven formula, a man with a plan. We need to support, get behind and listen to him and we’ll have that success at East St. John.”

Support shouldn’t be a problem for a man as accomplished as Foster. The work won’t be easy, but it appears East St. John has a coach and leader ready for the challenge.