East St. John takes down St. James 41-40 in overtime thriller

Published 11:04 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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VACHERIE — East St. John started the 2023 season off with a win Friday night in downtown Vacherie, overpowering the talented St. James Wildcats 41-40 in a Week One overtime thriller.

Koyal Gray, D’kai Joseph, and quarterback Lorenzo Zeno contributed touchdowns for The E.

East St. John Coach Brandon Brown said his team played under some early adversity and managed to settle down.  Big plays kept the E clawing their way back to tie the game late in the fourth and escape with a win.

“St. James is a very good team, very well-coached, and very fundamentally sound. We knew they were going to pose a lot of problems for us,” East St. John head coach Brandon Brown said. “I was just glad our kids were able to withstand the storm. We were down 20-0, but we were able to battle back and get the victory.”

Both Wildcats teams are coming off of successful seasons that ended just short of the 2022 championship game. East St. John fell to Destrehan in last year’s quarterfinals and returned a lot of experience to this year’s team, while St. James was defeated by state champion Many in the semis.

Friday’s battle of the River Parishes proved to be a well-matched game until the very end. St. James was the first to attack the scoreboard, shooting out to a 20-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

East St. John put up seven points in the second, and a big stop just before halftime left the score 20-7 with St. James on top.

Both teams added touchdowns in the third quarter, bringing the score to 27-14. A 23-yard score from Koyal Gray narrowed the deficit and proved The E was still in the game. Gray came through again with a 53-yard score to tie up the game 27-27, but it wasn’t long before St. James answered with a touchdown.

As the clock counted down in the fourth, the game was tied up once again, this time 34-34.

Lorenzo Zeno brought in a touchdown to give East St. John the lead in overtime. St. James tried to match the score, but a failed conversion left them one point short and gave East St. John the 41-40 win.

East St. John will play at G.W. Carver in Week Two.


— Randall Campbell of The Nick Network Prep Report contributed to this story.