East St. John came into Friday night’s Class 5A bidistrict playoff matchup against John Ehret with a very deceiving 5-5 record.
Their five losses came against teams with a combined 44-5 record, and that experience against upper echelon talent assisted them in their 28-18 upset victory over the No. 13 seed Ehret (9-1) at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
“We’re 1-0 and this is our time,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “We wanted to force turnovers, we wanted to make them punt; that’s what we talked about (before the game). Our team plays well together and they love each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Wildcats will be facing off with No. 4 seed Destrehan next week. Destrehan defeated East St. John last week 28-14.
The Wildcat defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and held Ehret’s explosive running attack in check for the majority of the night.
“We wanted to come out and show were a good team,” East St. John linebacker Ahmani Martin said. “We came into this game with a 5-5 record, but we had a hard schedule and we came out and fought every Friday night.”
Ehret started pushing the Wildcats (6-5) once they went down by three scores, and down eight points with the ball in their possession it seemed as if the Patriots were poised for a potential miracle comeback. But Ehret quarterback Caron Baham threw his third interception of the game to Martin, whoreturned it 13 yards for a touchdown, extending the East St. John lead to 28-12.
“I’m very proud of my defense. We had three turnovers, and with three turnovers, we should be able to win on any Friday night,” Martin said. “My (interception) came in a big situation. They had a lot of momentum, but I just had to make a play and make something happen.”
After falling behind 21-0, Ehret came to life on both sides of the ball.
Their first drive after falling behind three possessions went 76 yards on 10 plays and concluded with a 3-yard touchdown run by Baham.
Ehret defensive back Jarius Wallace intercepted a Xavier Lewis pass on the following drive and returned it 32 yards, giving the Patriots the ball inside the Wildcats’ 10. Baham ran in from 6 yards out on the next play to cut the Patriots’ deficit down to 21-12 late in the third quarter.
“We just started playing John Ehret football,” Ehret coach Corey Lambert said. “We started firing on them and playing downhill.
“Our defense played really well, but the pick-six in the second half really killed us.”
After forcing an Ehret three-and-out to open the second half, receiver Antonio Parks returned a punt 36 yards to put the Wildcats into Ehret territory. Two plays later, Lewis faked a handoff and ran up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown, extending their lead to 21-0.
Lewis, an LSU commit, finished with 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown and also made several plays on the defensive end at cornerback.
Ehret’s offense couldn’t get out of their own way in the first quarter.
After backing themselves up to a second-and-29 after back-to-back holding plays on their opening drive, a Baham screen pass was tipped and intercepted by Wildcats defensive back Dontrell Allen and returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
The Patriot defense was able to negate an East St. John drive that extended into Ehret territory by forcing a Lewis fumble, but three plays later, another third-and-long situation ended with East St. John intercepting a Baham pass — this one by defensive back Shayhan Williams.
Two plays later, Nigel Anderson burst through the middle of the defense for a 15-yard touchdown. After converting the two-point conversion on a fake field goal, the Wildcats were able to claim a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“You just can’t bounce back from two pick-sixes,” Lambert said. “They had three interceptions that they capitalized on, but our defense held them in check.”
East St. John’s defense was stout throughout the first half, forcing the two Baham turnovers and holding the explosive quarterback to only 25 rushing yards in the first half.
He finished with 24 carries for 119 yards and three touchdowns but only completed eight of his 19 passes for 107 yards and the three interceptions.