Kerry Johnson, Masen Mitchel power Chalmette past East Jefferson 19-7 _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Noah Thomas (13) and Kerry Johnson (15) high five as they celebrate Johnson's touchdown against East Jefferson on Oct. 2.

Ever since Chalmette’s 2014 District 8-5A opener ended, the Owls have been waiting for this week.

Chalmette lost 13-10 to Ehret, its only district setback last season. The Patriots went on to go unbeaten in 8-5A for the second consecutive season, vanquishing its other district foes by an average of 43.8 points per game.

“I think we understand we let one slip away from us,” Owls coach Jason Tucker said. “We turned the ball over four times. We didn’t play well enough on offense to secure a victory.”

The teams meet Friday at Chalmette. Although Ehret was considered the district favorite, the Owls (5-2, 4-0) lead 8-5A, with the Patriots and Landry-Walker (both 5-2, 3-1) one game behind. A Patriots win would forge a three-way tie for the lead, and a resounding victory could have implications regarding playoff berths.

In last season’s meeting, Chalmette led 10-7 in the waning minutes when Ehret quarterback Caron Baham broke loose for a run of nearly 40 yards, getting inside the Owls’ 10. Baham scored from the 2 with about 45 seconds left, giving Ehret the win.

Baham, who has committed to play at Missouri, experienced a torn ACL on the second play of this season’s season opener. Middle linebacker Dejon Harris, the running threat, and freshman Travis Mumphry, the passer, have filled in.

“Ehret still does the same things,” Tucker said. “Offensively, they run the ball, and they have a good defense. They are big, fast and athletic.”

Chalmette also puts a premium on running the ball, and that will be the key to who wins Friday night. The Owls control the clock and their games with long drives, keeping their defense off the field.

Running back Masen Mitchell (1,005 yards, 15 touchdowns on 166 carries) has been particularly dangerous on counter players, mostly to the right, and fast wingback Kerry Johnson (406 yards, 26 carries, 15.6 yards per carry, four touchdowns) has dazzled foes on jet sweeps, mostly going left, in which he gets the ball while going in motion.

“We want to stop the run and force them to pass,” Ehret right defensive end Kerry Starks said. “Their offensive line changes their blocking schemes sometimes, so you have to be focused. I have to really read the offensive tackle and the guy in front of me.”

Starks sometimes replaces nose tackle Dwayne Fisher on the Patriots’ three-man front to provide more pressure up the middle. That offsets centers who pull on traps and counters.

Starks said Chalmette has run the ball more this season. Some of that has been because quarterback Dominic Curole missed two district games with a shoulder injury. He returned last week against Bonnabel, opening up the offense with passes.

Starks, who has committed to Grambling State, and left defensive end Robert Green, an Army commitment, both are good pass rushers, as well as outside linebackers Michael Divinity and Anthony Hamilton.

“We bring pressure, but our whole defense is active,” Starks said.

Starks, who also starts at tight end, is a big part of Ehret’s running game with his blocking, Ehret coach Corey Lambert said. In a game between two one-loss teams last week, Ehret steamrolled West Jefferson 39-9. That came one week after the Owls outlasted West Jeff 56-42 at Chalmette in their homecoming game.

Last season, Chalmette’s defense held Ehret in check, executing its defensive scheme well. However, six of those Owls defensive players graduated, most notably nose tackle Jalen Scott, the 8-5A defensive MVP.

Chalmette is known for being sound on special teams. That was the case in last season’s meeting, and it paid big dividends in two big wins this season. Using sky kicks, the Owls neutralized Landry-Walker’s return game and they “stole” three possessions against West Jefferson.

“They do well in the kicking game,” Lambert said. “We just have to have our kids ready for it.”

And, it’s Senior Night for 18 Owls. A spirited atmosphere with its usual overflow crowd is expected. With what’s at stake, Starks said the Patriots will be undaunted.

“We do well in (other team’s) homecomings and games like that,” he said. “We just can’t let the referees calls affect us.

“This game could mean the difference between playing at home in the playoffs or playing on the road.”