ESJ may have to forfeit wins for ineligible player: Wildcats still in good spirits, coach says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2019

RESERVE – Everything seemed to be going great for the East St. John Wildcats Friday night.

A large contingent of alumni had turned out for the East St. John homecoming festivities and the Joe Keller Stadium parking lot was full of tailgaters who, at times, backed up the traffic on Airline Highway.

Then, once the game started, the Wildcats quickly jumped to a 14-0 lead over visiting Helen Cox. Running back Calvin Gardner got things started with a 10-yard run then, after a blocked punt, quarterback Sean Shelby ran in from the 1 for another score.

Then the heavens opened up. After a long delay, game and school officials elected to postpone the action until Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. East St. John came back the next day to finish a 49-0 win. But it wasn’t as easy at it seems.

“It was crazy,” Wildcats coach Brandon Brown said. “It was my first time in that situation. It was kind of hard to get them going again on Friday afternoon, but we finally got them going. We just tried to keep them focused.”

Shelby would throw two touchdown passes to Dontae Fleming and Rydell Jackson would run for one and catch another to improve East St. John to 4-2 on the season – for now.

Brown said he has self-reported using an ineligible player in the first three games of the season and is awaiting an official ruling from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association on the ramifications. The player, who is not identified, did not complete a necessary summer school course. Brown said he expects his team will have to forfeit its wins against West Jefferson and Sophie B. Wright, which would give the Wildcats a record of 2-4 overall and 1-1 in District 7-5A play.

Brown said his players are prepared for the worst.

“At this point, in their minds, they’re just counting what happened on the field,” he said. “The know it may happen, but they’ve been very positive.”

The Wildcats also are preparing for Friday’s big district matchup against Destrehan (5-1). The rivalry between the Wildcats is fierce and more than a few of the games have become part of River Parishes football lore. Destrehan has won the last seven contests, but the last two were decided by one point.

While East St. John is coming off a big win, though, Destrehan is coming off a tough loss to Terrebonne – its first loss to the bayou Tigers since 1998.

“Anytime you play a Destrehan team I don’t know if it’s a right time,” Brown said. “They had a tough one this last week but they’re still Destrehan. We’ve just got to play our game.”