East St. John pours it on Gators early
RESERVE - East St. John jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead and added 27 more points in the third quarter on way to a 69-35 District 5-5A opening victory over St. Amant Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium.
“They are pretty tough,” St. Amant head coach David Oliver said. “They had a couple of big plays. They made plays on third down. They blocked a punt and had a big special teams play. They kept us behind the chains and controlled the tempo early and got out to the early lead. They have some talented athletes.”
“The main difference was I thought they physically outplayed us in both the interior lines on offense and defense. They had some size advantages and they utilized them. Thier back broke a lot of tackles and wore us down.”
The loss overshadowed the Gators’ 271 yards rushing and quarterback Jaylin LeBlanc’s game-high 127 yards on the ground.
East St. John struck on the first possession of the game when Andre Millet ran up the middle from 6 yards to cap an 8-play, 63 yard drive. Millet’s 26-yard run kickstarted the drive before Alex Singleton’s 17-yard chomp set up the score. Tyler Hazet’s kick failed leaving the score 6-0 with 8:34 left to play in the first quarter.
Morris LaGrande sacked LeBlanc for a 12-yard loss on the ensuing possession and Renaldo Young returned Justin Manton’s 30-yard punt 40 yards to pay dirt two plays later. Singleton ran in the conversion to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with 6:49 left in the first quarter.
Tre’ Vaughn gained 10 yards on the next possession but Adrian Bourgeois was dropped for an 8-yard loss to force the Gators to punt. Quarterback Kalen Henderson capped the ensuing 7-play, 55-yard drive and a 1-yard keeper over the plane. Henderson connected with Todd Muse for a 21-yard pickup to fuel the drive before Singleton burst through the middle for another 21-yard gain. Hazet’s kick gave East St. John a 21-0 lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
Nelson Jointer’s 29-yard catch and run from LeBlanc kickstarted the Gators’ next possession but John Champagne recovered Jointer’s fumble at the Wildcat 40 a play later and Singleton capped the ensuing 9-play, 60-yard drive with a 4-yard run to the right side. Henderson’s 20-yard completion to Young and Muse’s 11 and 9-yard runs set the tone. Hazet’s kick made it 28-0 with 8:32 left in the half.
St. Amant drove to the ESJ 15 behind LeBlanc’s 44-yard completion to Jointer and 12-yard run but Colby Robert’s 31-yard field goal attempt was no good. The Gators’ defense stiffened on the next possession forcing the Wildcats to punt after Henderson picked up 20 yards and Jointer hit pay dirt on a dive from 32 yards a play after LeBlanc connected with Chase Keller for 25 yards. Robert’s kick cut it to 28-7 with 3:46 left in the half.
East St. John was not finished and four plays later Henderson hit Muse for a 51-yard scoring strike to cap a 67-yard drive. Hazet’s kick made it 35-7 and Young intercepted LeBlanc a play later and returned it 40 yards to the Gator 39 but St. Amant’s defense held.
St. Amant came to life to start the second half as LeBlanc scampered up the middle for a 72-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and Robert’s kick cut it to 35-14 with 11:41 left in the third quarter but East St. John quickly took the wind from the sails as Henderson ran around the left side for a 29-yard touchdown to cap the ensuing 3-play, 62 yard drive a play after Singleton’s 20-yard pickup. Hazet’s kick put it out of reach 42-14.
East St. John would add three more touchdowns to the scoreboard in the third quarter. Muse’s 10-yard touchdown run capped the Wildcats’ next possession, an 11-play, 59-yard drive. James Reynolds recovered LeBlanc’s fumble at the Gator 33 on the ensuing possession and Singleton punched it in from 7 yards. East St. John’s final score came on Diontae Hicks 10-yard return of a blocked punt by Brad Williams with 28 seconds remaining in the quarter.
St. Amant did not give up and tagged three more onto the scoreboard in the final quarter. Vaughn raced into the end zone from 45 yards to cap the ensuing 5 play, 65 yard drive that saw LeBlanc pick up 16 yards and Bourgeois gain 9. Robert’s kick cut it to 69-21 with 2:58 left to play.
LeBlanc’s 50-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Gators’ next possession and Justin Manton’s kick made it 69-28 with 7:26 left to play.
Shannon Lucas recovered an onsides kick and Chanse Kendrick capped the 6-play, 66-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown run after Matt Marrero kept for a 32-yard gain. Manton’s kick reflected the final tally with 2:44 left to play.
LeBlanc added 98 yards in the air completing 3 of 10 passes. Vaughn carried six times for 47 yards and Jointer’s two receptions added up to 73 yards.
Singleton led East St. John’s rushing attack with 112 yards on 18 carries, while Henderson completed 7-of-13 passes for 143 yards.
“All of the losses are disappointing,” Oliver said. “You just have to regroup. I think our kids are together. We got a good group of kids and we have to go out and play a very, very good Destrehan team on Friday and give them all we got.”
St. Amant travels to No. 1 Destrehan (5-0, 1-0) Friday night.