REPLAY: East St. John survives 29-28 thriller over Walker
The seeds meant nothing. To virtually all observers, the matchup pitting No. 22 Walker at No. 11 East St. John was an even one.
The observers like myself were right. We picked the game as our Crescent City Sports Game of the Week. We are certainly pleased with the decision.
In possibly the game of the night in the state, East St. John edged Walker 29-28 at Joe Keller Stadium in an absolute thriller in a battle of Wildcats.
Walker missed a field goal in the final seconds which hit the left upright that would have won the game in what turned out to be a frantic final two minutes.
The homestanding Wildcats started well.
Yashua Mitchell hit Koyal Gray Jr. on a 34-yard touchdown pass to give East St. John a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Mitchell connected with Dkhai Joseph with a 28-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead and it was 13-0 with 10:10 to play in the half.
It looked like it might be an easy night for the Wildcats when Mitchell hit Joseph on a 46-yard flea-flicker for a touchdown and East St. John took a 20-0 lead.
Walker then awakened and showed that it would be a game prior to halftime, driving and scoring on a 3-yard run by CJ McClendon to cut the deficit to 20-7 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Troy Sylve Jr. hit Warren Young Jr. on a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-13.
Then, Walker came up with a big play in the kicking game, recovering an onside kick at the East St. John 48-yard line.
Three plays later, Young scored on 12-yard run to make it 20-19 before East St. John jumped offside on the extra point attempt.
Walker then decided to go for two from the 1-yard line and it paid off as Jacory Thomas ran in the 2-point conversion to give the visitors a 21-20 lead with 3:58 to play in the third quarter.
Jason Coello then booted a 22-yard field goal to give East St. John a 23-21 lead with 6:54 to play in the game.
Walker then recaptured the lead, driving 65 yards and scoring on a 6-yard run by McClendon to take a 28-23 lead with 1:17 to play in the game.
It was far from over.
On the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, Mitchell hit Joseph for 47 yards to the Walker 18-yard line and a personal foul moved it to the Walker 9-yard line.
Mitchell hit Joseph on a 9-yard touchdown pass on the next play to give East St. John a 29-28 lead with 47.6 seconds remaining. The try for two points failed.
Walker fought back again, against the odds.
The visiting Wildcats ran a hook and lateral, reaching the East St. John 32-yard line with 35.6 seconds to play.
Walker would reach the 5-yard line with no timeouts remaining.
Nile Allen hit the left upright on a 27-yard field goal attempt and East St. John escaped with a thrilling victory, a bitter defeat for Walker.
Speaking on The Three Tailgaters Show Saturday morning on NASH ICON 106.1 FM, East St. John head coach Brandon Brown remained as calm as possible with the game on the line.
“We knew they did not have any more timeouts but they stopped the clock,” Brown said. “It was a bit confusing but we persevered. It was a game of inches. We talk about believing here in the good Lord. That’s kind of been our message. We had to believe we would block it or miss it.”
Brown was wary of Walker even when East St. John was up big early.
“We went up 20-0 but we knew they would come back on us,” Brown said. “We showed toughness and resiliency. We knew it was a loser go home situation. We had to find a way to win and we did so. This year has been amazing to see our kids and community rebound from the hurricane last year. We needed this year.”
Brown felt he had the best player on the field.
“Dkhai works extremely hard on and off the field,” Brown said. “He just works so hard. I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s been awesome for us all year. He’s a real player. We knew we had to get the ball in our best player’s hands and we did.”
East St. John (9-2) advances to play at No. 27 Haughton in the regional round. Haughton upset district rival and No. 6 seed Airline 36-26.
“Haughton is a very good opponent,” Brown said. “Airline beat them earlier in the season. We understood it could go either way. It’s hard to beat a team twice. Haughton has a very good quarterback and they are very balanced on offense. We will make the long trip and we will need to play our best ball.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…