It was by no means pretty, but wins on the road often aren’t.
In a game marred by 25 penalties and six turnovers, East St. John took a lead in the first quarter and held on for dear life to a 15-14 victory to improve to 1-1 on the young season.
“This was a very important win,” East St. John coach Phillip Banko said. “For us to rebound from a loss last week, it shows that we’re inexperienced but we are getting better as a team.”
On top of the miscues, the Wildcats had to overcome even more adversity when senior quarterback Xavier Lewis suffered a minor shoulder injury early in the second quarter that kept him from playing quarterback for the rest of the game.
“I jammed it but I should be all right going forward,” said Lewis, an LSU commitment who stayed in the game by lining up at tailback and receiver in addition to his usual defensive back duties. “My team needed me so I decided to suck it up and go out and play for the team. Coaches tell me that I’m a leader so I have to display that.”
With Lewis unable to throw, senior Nigel Anderson went under center. He finished with a game-high 101 rushing yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put ESJ up 15-9 and ended a two-quarter scoring drought.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” said Anderson who started the game at running back. “I knew that I had to step up and just trust myself while I was at quarterback.”
Having struggled for much of the evening, Scotlandville sophomore quarterback Levi Lewis found his groove on the Hornets with just over two minutes to go in the game. He completed five of his final six passes to lead SHS down the field where he scored on a seven-yard scramble.
After the two-point conversion brought the Hornets within a point, East St. John recovered the onside kick with just 20 seconds to play, sealing Scotlandville’s fate.
“It’s never easy to take a loss,” Scotlandville coach Eric Randall said. “We showed a lack of discipline; we didn’t show the physicality. We approached this as a playoff game, but the outcome was not there.”
The Wildcats flexed their muscles on its first possession of the game with a 9-play, 62-yard drive that was capped with an 8-yard touchdown run by Lewis. A Jarred Jackson catch off of a fake extra-point kick put East St. John up 8-0.
Two possessions later, Scotlandville answered with a blocked punt to give its offense the ball at the East St. John 20-yard line. Junior running back Delmas Holmes did the rest with just three carries, the third being a six-yard plunge into the end zone to make it 8-6.
The turnover bug continued to bite the Wildcats throughout the second quarter as they gave Scotlandville the ball back in its own territory on a fumble and two interceptions.
But East St. John’s defense bailed out the offense on all three occasions and kept the two-point lead going into halftime.
“What a job they did,” Banko said of his defense. “For what they did under that adversity, I’m going to hug every one of them.”
Outside of their lone touchdown drive, Scotlandville couldn’t get anything going on offense, totaling just four yards rushing in the first half and 63 for the game.
“They just beat us in the trenches,” said Randall. “We just weren’t really sound from a technique standpoint.”