Lovin’ it! Eagles take key 7-2A road win to open district play

Tryve Brackin

St. John High’s Eagles went into the heart of Wildcat Country Friday night and claimed a joyful 20-6 victory over the hosting Livonia High football in a key District 7-2A gridiron opener.

“The difference in the game came down to our boys loving the opportunity to play in a very important district game. They wanted the victory more than their opponent,” explained Coach Tut Musemeche in a Saturday interview.

The Eagle coach called the victory “a team effort” and said the boys were prepared physically and mentally for the opportunity to make a key step toward district honors.

 “It was a team and coaching staff effort. Our seniors stepped up as well as our younger starters. We were all in it together to be prepared for a very good football team on their home field,” noted Musemeche.

The Eagle coach, who mentored for several years in the upper classification realm in the Baton Rouge area before coming to St. John, said the atmosphere was similar to other big football games he had witnessed. A handful of St. John’s seniors and juniors have experienced big district and playoff victories and the tradition of Eagle football, while Livonia only recently turned around its program under the solid two-year leadership of Coach David Brewerton. “I have seen it happen before. Big games can come down to the simple fact that one team wants the victory more than the other. Our boys wanted it more and prepared in a positive manner,” noted the Eagle coach.

Musemeche admitted that he and his staff had “pushed the button a bit” as they got the Eagles fully prepared for an undefeated team that was ready to make a move toward a district honors position.

The Eagles entered the district game as the defending league runner-up of a year ago as well as a multiple district champion on the Class 1-A level in previous seasons. St. John has built a winning tradition over the last decade.

And yet this year’s St. John club entered the game with an up and down 2008 showing. The lost to 3-A Brusly 28-0 in their opener, but bounced back to top fellow 2-A University High on the road. The Eagles made it two wins in a row with a solid victory over Single A host Central CHS, but lost by a close margin to fellow 2-A Riverside Academy in their recent Homecoming game. Bouncing back yet again, the Eagles traveled to traditional Single A power Kentwood High two weeks ago and won convincingly and for the first time in four attempts to do so since the mid-1990s.

“Even though we lost to Riverside, we saw growth as a team. We could have won that game and the boys did what it took to win, but unfortunately it went the other way. As this season has progressed, so has the attitude on and off the field of the team and its individuals. Going to Kentwood and winning was a part of that growth. The boys went to Livonia determined, prepared, and ready to enjoy playing the game,” noted Musemeche.

Waiting at LHS for the Eagles was a 5-0 Wildcat team that finished third in the 7-2A in 2007 and had turned around a string of losing seasons. The Wildcats downed 1-A neighbors False River 31-0 and Catholic of Pointe Coupee 12-3 to open the season and then they went on a run of three runaway victories, crushing 1-A North Central 64-0, 1-A Ascension CHS 55-14, and Loreauville by a 51-7 count in their 7-A opener the week before. But, standing in the way of district honors this year were defending 7-2A champ Donaldsonville High and St. John. The locals were the first to take measure Friday night. The victory boosted the Eagles to a 4-2 record and to a 1-0 start in league play.

The first half of the key 7-2A battle was closely fought. St. John held a narrow 7-6 edge. The Eagles moved into Wildcat territory and scored on a fake field goal play from the LHS 5-yard line. Holder Mike Martinez took the center snap and instead of holding the ball for Kyle Osmer to boot the ball, stood up and threw a high pass to Shelby Hemenway, who snared the ball a yard or so deep in the end zone with a Livonia defender near. Osmer hit the PAT after the touchdown.

Livonia matched the first half SJHS score when their defense recovered an Eagle fumble at the 20-yard line and scored after a short drive.

“Even with the score close, the boys were enjoying the game and we felt good about our chances because we had held Livonia to only 35 yards rushing in the first half,” commented Musemeche.

The victory did not come without some frustration. Along with the turnover to set up the first half score, the Eagles felt they were slighted when an apparent 25-yard TD pass play from Martinez to Hemenway was called back for an infraction. Determined, the Eagle offense was resilient and came back with a beauty of a 76-yard TD pass play from Martinez to Hemenway. Later in the second half, Guy Morgan scored on a two-yard run to cap a key SJHS offensive drive.

Once the St. John defense seemed to have stopped the vaulted LHS running game and standout returning all-state back Dustin Dixon, the Wildcats were forced to throw the football. That ended up playing right into the hands of the ball-hawking Eagle defense.

“We had four interceptions in the game and that was key to the victory. Our defense stood up and stopped a very potent offensive attack,” noted Musemeche.

Stealing away passes from the Livonia offense were Morgan, Corey David, and defensive end Justin Hudson. Morgan had a pair of interceptions.

“The boys made the big plays to win it. You could see them enjoying every bit of it. Seeing that and watching these kids grow, well, that is what it is all about. People can criticize and second-guess, but they aren’t in the locker room with these boys, They loved every minute of that game. They beat a good district opponent and wanted it and prepared for it,” noted the Eagle coach.

Musemeche added that this is only a step in the process of the football season. The Eagles have three more important 7-2A games to play and to enjoy. The next opportunity comes tomorrow (Friday) night when they host a potent Jeanerette High team. The JHS Tigers come to Green Devil Stadium with a very deceptive 1-6 record.

“Jeanerette’s record does not come close to the potential they have as a football team. They are dangerous. They are one of the fastest teams we will play this season and that is on both sides of the ball. And, they are the biggest team up front that we have faced this season. We have to be prepared yet again for a big challenge,” commented the Eagle mentor.

The Tigers opened their season with a 14-0 loss to traditional power Catholic of New Iberia. The next week they beat West St. Mary’s by a 20-6 score for their only victory. They followed up the win with a trio of losses to upper classification 3-A Rayne, Northwest High, and Franklin. Jeanerette opened 7-2A competition two weeks ago with a 47-22 loss to defending league champ and 5-0 Top Ten ranked Donaldsonville High. Friday night they fell in overtime by a 12-6 score to 1-A West St. John.

“Jeanerette has been on the verge of breaking out several times. They played a ranked Rayne High team to the wire and lost by only a touchdown. Last night they came very close, but lost in overtime to West St. John. We cannot take them lightly because they have only one victory,” cautioned Musemeche, who still stressed preparation and feeling confident and ready to enjoy another outing.