East St. John coach Alden Foster could not believe what had just happened.
In a span of a few moments last week, Foster and his Wildcats went from the thrill of what they thought was a miraculous victory to an agonizing defeat colored by controversy.
After ending regulation tied with Destrehan at 28, East St. John took the first overtime possession and scored on three plays. From the 15, quarterback Dasmain “Duke” Crosby spotted his favorite 6-foot-4 receiver in the end zone, and Javon Antonio outjumped a pair of Destrehan defenders for the touchdown.
Foster gambled, electing to go for two, but Crosby’s pass fell incomplete and East St. John led 34-28.
Then it was Destrehan’s turn and everybody in the stadium knew who was going to get the ball. So did Antonio. It had been his job to stop Destrehan’s John Emery all night, and he had done so fairly well, joining the linebacking corps to close the middle.
“We just tried to keep him contained,” Antonio said. “We knew he was going to get his yards. We just had to try to stop him as best we could.”
On this particular play, Antonio did stop Emery — and then he came out with the ball. As he began to run the fumble away from the end zone, the East St. John sideline and its half of the stadium erupted in cheers celebrating the end of the game.
But flags were down.
First, the officials ruled that Emery’s forward progress had been stopped, so there was no fumble. Then, they called holding on Antonio.
“They said I held,” Antonio said. “It was a running play up the middle. How could I hold?”
Foster couldn’t believe it. For several moments, the emotionally distraught coach knelt on the artificial turf of Destrehan’s field, begging the men in stripes to explain it, to rethink it, to take it back.
They didn’t and, on the next play, Destrehan scored, then kicked the extra point to win the game, 35-34.
It was a shot to the heart for Foster. It was the second year in a row that he saw his Wildcats get Destrehan on the ropes, only to let them slip away. Last year East St. John jumped to a 13-0 lead only to lose 39-20 thanks to a botched punt and a pair of interceptions in the final period.
“The kids are crying and my daughter,” he said. “That’s what got to me. I just told them, ‘That’s life. Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way.’ We’ve just got to build on it. You can’t use adversity as a crutch, you have to use it as a stepping stone.”
Besides, there is no time for the Wildcats to wallow.
This week they had to pick themselves up to get ready Friday’s game at Terrebonne, with their hopes for the district championship and the playoffs riding along.
The Tigers (5-1, 1-1) are enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time, entering the game at No. 12 in the current power rankings and averaging nearly 45 points per game. Their lone loss was to Hahnville.
“It’s a big game for us,” Foster said. “They have a hell of a team. They are, arguably, one of the most talented teams we’ll face all year.”
Certainly, after seeing how the Wildcats came so close to knocking off Destrehan, Terrebonne coach Gary Hill is not overlooking East St. John.
“It’s always come down to a mistake here or there for us that put us on the wrong side of the scoreboard,” Hill said. “They are a very athletic team that has one of the better athletes in the state in Javon Antonio. He’s a big part of what they do. They are very talented.”