Number Two: Eagles stuck on second place with repeat title game loss to Tigers

Tryve Brackin
The St. John Eagles, the runners-up in District 7-2A, toppled St. Helena Central in the first round of playoff action. The Eagles tentatively host Farmerville in Round 2.

St. John High’s boy athletes have claimed second place honors in state competition twice in football and twice in baseball. Thursday night at Green Devil Stadium the Eagle gridiron team took second place in District 7-2A competition for the second year in a row with a narrow 13-9 loss to visiting Donaldsonville High.

Although an impressive run of berths in the state playoffs in both football and baseball has SJHS on the rolls of one of the top high school athletic programs in those sports, the frustration continued last week, being stuck on the number two.

Apparently, and sadly for the Eagle sports program, the number two has become an unlucky and disappointing repeat occurrence.

Although it has not affected the Eagles on the state title chase scene, it has been a disappointment over the last two District 7-2A football campaigns. “2A”...there is that number two yet again!

Donaldsonville trimmed the Eagles last year in D’ville by a narrow 23-20 score when an Eagle comeback was foiled. The SJHS kicking game was a letdown in that loss. Thursday night the six-point loss was the result of five lost fumbles by St. John, two of which the visiting Tigers capitalized upon with short scoring drives for their two touchdowns. In both district title losses the Eagles rallied in the second half to close a scoring game, but could not overcome the eventual DHS win margin.

The wet field caused havoc for both football clubs, but Donaldsonville took best advantage. The Tigers ended up losing two of four fumbles to the Eagle defense.

The contest, for the most part, was a defensive struggle, although both teams put plenty of points on the scoreboard in their previous 7-2A victories leading to the showdown.

Eagle defenders Ryan Suarez and Michael Vosin came up with a key stop on the first series of the night, forcing DHS to punt the ball away without gaining ground. A short kick and a return by Kade Yarbrough put the Eagles at the DHS 24 to open their first offensive series of the night. Instead of making the good field position count, the Eagles left the pigskin on the ground for the first time. It was an omen for future minutes of the game.

Suarez, Yarbrough, and T.J. Williams came up with good defensive plays, but a flag on SJHS kept the Tiger drive going. It would go all the way down to the Eagle 10-yard line before the DHS offense was stopped six-inches from first-down yardage. Matt Marionneaux, Suarez again, and Williams came up with good defensive plays late in the series.

Taking over possession deep in their own territory, the Eagles began an impressive advance as the game moved into the second quarter. Josh Johnson and Guy Morgan picked up key yardage on runs. Johnson eventually broke a long run down to the DHS 41, but the Tiger defense stiffened and the Eagles did a quick kick on fourth and 11 after acting like they might go for the first.

Standout and speedy DHS back Bryant Dunn got the Tiger ground game going as he broke off a 50-plus-yard run to deep in Eagle territory. But the Eagle defense, led by Marionneaux, D.J. Pearce, Kade Boudreaux, and Corey David, came up with big stops on Dunn.

After getting the ball back the Eagles gained six yards on a run by Johnson, but on the next handoff, the ball was loose and a Tiger fell on it for a turnover. A holding flag on the Tigers pushed them back, but QB Lane Bailey went deep with a pass for the first time in the game. He found receiver Todd Joseph wide open by the goal line and hit him with a 35-yard TD pass. DHS hit the PAT for a 7-0 lead. SJHS had lost a pair of fumbles to that early point in the game and the second one led to the quick Tiger score and lead.

The fumbles kept coming as the Eagles coughed up the pigskin on their second play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff. The Tigers were handed the turnover gift at the SJHS 10. It took only two handoffs for Dunn to crack over from 5-yards out. The DHS PAT was blocked, but they had enough points to win with a 13-0 lead midway in the second period.

The wet football continued to plague both teams as they exchanged possession on back-to-back fumbles. Halftime came with SJHS unable to move the ball.

Taking in the second-half kick off the Eagles drove over 70 yards without fumbling away possession and scored their only touchdown of the game. Johnson and Morgan took turns picking up good yardage on running plays. Johnson garnered a five-yard run on a fourth and inches play during the drive. Morgan took the next two handoffs and went six and then ten yards to the DHS four-yard line. Johnson took a pitch and went around the left side for the final yards to score the touchdown. Kyle Osmer hit the PAT and the Eagles had cut the Tiger lead to 13-7.

Donaldsonville came right back on a drive led by a pair of long runs by Dunn, but again they fumbled away possession and the Eagles managed to avoid another DHS score, taking over inside their own 20. St. John moved down the field on a series of runs by Morgan and then Johnson broke free for good yardage, however, he lost the ball as it shot out from his arms and toward the out of bounds line. The pigskin bounced right back inside the lines and a Tiger fell on it to stop the Eagle offensive advance down inside DHS territory.

Donaldsonville could not move the ball and the Eagles took over again with another opportunity to score. Johnson and Morgan moved the sticks for a trio of first downs before a couple of DHS defensive stops and a deflected pass at the line of scrimmage stopped them in Tiger territory. The Eagle defense held yet again and instead of attempting to punt, DHS Coach Gary Adkins decided to take a safety. The ploy gave St. John two points (changing the score to 13-9), but that enabled the Tigers to take a free kick instead of chance a mistake deep in their territory.

The free kick pushed St. John back to its own 40 with the clock ticking away the final seconds of the game. The Eagles moved the ball on a first-down pass from Martinez to Johnson, but St. John could not move much further and gave up the ball on downs inside Donaldsonville territory as the clock ran out.

The Eagles finished with 211 yards rushing and another 34 in the air to go with 14 first downs. D’ville closed with 10 first downs, 227 yards rushing and 35 yards in the air on their TD pass play. Both teams had five penalty flags.