Brandon Brown returns home seeking to return East St. John to glory
When you think East St. John football, you think of outstanding athletes and many success stories.
The names Phil Greco, Timmy Byrd, Louis Lipps, Ryan Perrilloux, Patrick Lewis, Chris Bush, Alvin Scioneaux, Roydell Willims, Duke Williams, Darion Monroe, DeQuincy Scott and many others come to mind.
Brandon Brown returns home in 2018 to try to restore the bite in the once proud Wildcats.
In five seasons at St. Helena College and Career Academy, Brown turned that program around, going 36-27 overall. He inherited a program which won just four games in its previous three years and won two games in his first year on the job. He built a very good team in time after coaching in Columbus, MS prior to the position at St. Helena.
In 2016, Brown guided the Hawks to the Class 2A semifinals before leading St. Helena to the championship game in 2017.
East St. John won a Class 4A state championship under Phil Greco in 1980. Since then, the Wildcats have gotten as far as the quarterfinals, reaching the 5A round of eight in 2006 but have gotten no further.
East St. John has not posted a winning season since 2013. The last playoff victory for the Wildcats was in 2014.
Brown understands the school and its history. He was an outstanding player at East St. John, earning all-state honorable mention honors and he was an honor student, graduating in 2001. He was a team captain and earned Most Valuable Player honors in his senior season at East St. John, when he was in on 79 tackles. He attended Alcorn State on a football scholarship, starting for two seasons.
Brown is the 11th head coach at the school since Greco led the Wildcats to their lone state title. He is hoping to change the revolving door nature of the program while changing the culture.
“I’m happy to be home again, it’s like a dream come true,” Brown said. “When you think about East St. John football, you think about one of the top programs in the state. I had a chance to go elsewhere, gain experience and learn the game. There is no place like home. I feel the Lord has put me in a great position to give Him the honor and the glory. I’m just excited about it.”
The Wildcats must replace three key players who graduated, including top defender De’Andrei Pittman, who signed with Idaho, tight end Javon Antonio and running back Shelvin Keller.
Fortunately for Brown, there is talent on hand, including eight players who could play at the next level.
The Wildcats are a seasoned team with 16 returning starters, including eight on each side of the ball.
East St. John returns five key players who should stand out on offense, including mammoth senior tackle JaKobi Anderson (6-5, 330). Junior Calvin Gardner (5-8, 190) is a solid running back. The Wildcats have a pair of excellent junior wide receivers in Dontae Fleming (6-2, 175) and Markel August (6-2, 190).
The quarterback is senior Dasmain Crosby (5-8, 165) while senior Pershing Toney (5-10, 185) will join Gardner in the backfield. Senior Prentice Cook (5-9, 165) is the other wide receiver.
“Crosby gives you what you need at the most important position,” Brown said. “Duke Crosby is very good and our running backs are good, starting with Gardner. Dontae is a real threat for us, as is August. Both played a lot last year and they figure to be great leaders for us.”
Senior Hoxie Brown (6-3, 235) returns at tight end and is an imposing blocker and target in the passing game.
Up front, senior Timothy Johnson (5-11, 250) joins Anderson at tackle as a returning starter while the new starters include senior center Nelson Ramos (5-9, 240), along with senior guards Romell Anthony (6-3, 295) and Jaunta Johnson (5-10, 255).
“Chris Peters is an excellent coordinator,” Brown said. “We plan on playing fast. We have a lot of weekends. This is the best football you will find in the state in our league. We know we will have to raise our level if we want to succeed.”
The defense has a standout player up front in sophomore Welland Williams (6-2, 230) at tackle and he is joined by returning starter Matthew Billings (6-0, 180 Sr.) at defensive end. The other starters are seniors LaCorey Foster (6-2, 220) at tackle and senior Terrell Simmons (6-0, 180) at end.
“Williams has done an amazing job from day one,” Brown said. “He is a talented young man who was really good as a freshman. He has a great future. He seems like an older player and he is just a sophomore. His technique is outstanding and he is a great kid. He checked on me to see how I was doing on July 4. That tells you what kind of kid he is.”
All three linebackers return from a year ago, including senior Kendrell Holmes (5-10, 180) and juniors Trevion Hampton (5-7, 175) and Devontay Morgan (5-7, 175).
“The linebacker group has a lot of experience and knowledge and will do a great job,” Brown said. “They are not big but they can run to the football very well and make plays.”
The secondary features a pair of outstanding returning starters at the corners in senior Jarius Monroe (6-1, 185) and junior Howard Joseph (5-10, 170). Junior Shawn Sterling (5-11, 175) returns at free safety while junior Antonio Sanders (5-11, 175) is a new starter at strong safety.
“Monroe, Sterling and Joseph are all good players,” Brown said. “Howard is the leader of our team. Everyone respects his work ethic. He reminds me of myself when I was at East St. John playing with Roydell Williams and Chris Bush. I had to work hard everyday to prove myself and he is the same way. He comes to work daily and works so hard, setting an example for everyone else. Monroe has a skill set that I have not seen in a long time. He is long, rangy, runs well and has good hips.”
Brown cannot wait to see his defense on the field.
“I love the attitude of our defense,” Brown said. “I am running the defense and it is a pleasure to coach them. They love playing the game and really want to absorb the new things we are bringing in. There is experience. It has been a smooth transition. They are students of the game and that makes our job much easier.”
Lonnie Ellis will handle kicking and punting duties while Cook and Toney figure as the primary kick and punt return specialists.
The schedule opens at home on Aug. 31 against always tough Plaquemine at Joe Keller Stadium on Aug. 31 before a road game at Hoss Memtsas Stadium at West Jefferson on Sept. 7. The Wildcats return home to host McDonogh 35 on Sept. 14 before District 7-5A play opens with a pair of road games at Central Lafourche and H.L. Bourgeois.
The first district home game on Oct. 5 against Destrehan before the Wildcats host Terrebonne for Homecoming on Oct. 12. A road game follows at Hahnville before East St. John entertains Thibodaux on Senior Night Oct. 26. The final regular season game is Nov. 2 at South Lafourche in a non-district contest.
“I think we have a good schedule early to prepare us for a very, very tough league,” Brown said. “We have worked hard on strength and conditioning in the offseason to prepare for it. If we don’t come ready to play week in and week out, we will get embarrassed. Coach (Steve) Robicheaux does a great job at Destrehan. Coach (Nick) Saltaformaggio has an outstanding program at Hahnville. They are state championship contenders annually. That is where we are striving to be. We want to be on that level.”
Hahnville reached the state championship game a year ago and is very good again. Destrehan has a host of Division I players at skill positions and will be very good. Terrebonne may have its best team in several years and Thibodaux should be solid.
“Knowing the tradition and the names that have played here is huge,” Brown said. “I can share that with these kids that they can help bring some excitement back to this program, changing the culture and changing some losses to wins. We will take no one for granted.”
It will not be easy but Brown has proven that he can turn a program around and he is motivated, back home in Reserve.
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