Farmers harvest regional grid victory at expense of local Eagles

Tryve Brackin
St. John senior fullback T.J. Williams (44) and quarterback Mike Martinez (background) carry out fakes as senior Shelby Hemenway (4) blocks on a running play up the middle during last week’s state 2-A regional football loss to visiting Farmerville High.

You would think the evening’s freeze would hamper the Fighting Farmers, but instead the visiting Farmerville High football team harvested a 22-2 Class 2-A regional gridiron victory Friday night at Green Devil Stadium at the expense of the hosting local St. John High Eagles.

The Farmers seemed to warm up to the game in the second half, thawing out their usually potent offensive attack, while the beloved Eagles seemed to toss their once vaulted offense into the deep freeze.

St. John fumbled away a trio of possessions, muffed some kick returns that recreated poor second-half field position, and added a pair of pass interceptions on a cold evening that ended prep football competition in Iberville Parish for the 2008 season. A quick Fighting Farmer defense capitalized on the Eagle mistakes and stood its ground most of the evening, holding SJHS to less than 200 yards of offense.

Meanwhile, the St. John defense held its own in the first half, holding back standout FHS 1,900-plus-yard running back LaDarien Brown to only 13 yards in the first half. That resulted in a 2-0 St. John lead at intermission and high hopes for a march to the state quarterfinals round by the locals.

Instead, the locals gave up 22 unanswered points in the second half and their offense never threatened as it did in their only long drive that eventually gave them a safety, instead of touchdown points in the second quarter.

That proved to be the story of the chilly night at Green Devil Stadium. St. John controlled, but managed only a couple of points for the effort in the first half and then went caput when the Farmers got their tractor cranked up.

Brown and his offensive line got the Farmers going in the second half, while the visitors’ defense shut down the Eagle attack like Old McDonald shot-gunning crows off the utility poles on a dusty country road next to his corn field.

Brown rushed for 109 of his 122-yard total, scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run in the third period after pulling in an 8-yard TD pass from quarterback Corderious Nation for the go-ahead points earlier in the stanza. Inability to move the ball offensively midway in the final period set up a breakaway 29-yard TD run by backup running back Carl Pearson to ice down the 22-2 final tally.

FIRST HALF:

Defense ruled the early stages of the game, but the running of Eagles backs Josh Johnson and Guy Morgan gave the hosting locals an offensive edge. St. John moved into FHS territory early in the game, but a lost fumble stopped the advance just beyond midfield. On a later possession the Eagles moved for a first down, but a holding flag stopped their advancement.

Early in the second quarter the Eagles got a drive going with Johnson getting big yardage on a run and seniors T.J. Williams and Guy Morgan combining for more first down yardage. But the Farmerville defense stiffened, stretching out attempts by the Eagles to run to the outside and St. John was forced to punt. Kade Yarbrough kicked the ball deep into FHS territory and on the first play from scrimmage the Farmers fumbled the ball and senior lineman Justin Hudson garnered a big turnover recovery.

Johnson got the call and he blasted his way right through the FHS defense, but as he fought his way for the final yard to pay dirt the ball came loose and the visitors grabbed the turnover to stop the best SJHS scoring attempt of the game. Momentum and hindsight wise, the turnover at the one was the likely turning point of the game. The Eagles were forced to settle for an eventual safety as Nation was flagged for intentionally grounding the ball while in the grasp of an Eagle pass rusher in the end zone. Had the Eagles put 6 or 7 points on the scoreboard instead of 2 they might have been lining up again in Plaquemine tomorrow (Friday) night to play Calvary Baptist in the 2-A quarterfinals. Instead, Farmerville gained just enough hope and momentum to rally in the second half and advanced in the playoffs with an 11-1 record and the Eagles ended their season with a final 7-4 record.

St. John’s Shelby Hemenway did turn the free kick, following the safety, into a big gainer just passed the 50. Warren Bates, Jr. picked up a quick 5 yards and the Eagles seemed ready to push the ball into scoring position with a bit of momentum. However, the Farmer defense came up with an interception of a Mike Martinez pass. The turnover perhaps proved to be another twist in the flow of the game as the Fighting Farmers pushed the ball all the way down into the Red Zone as Nation hit on a key first down pass deep in Eagle territory. As the clocked ticked down to halftime, the Eagle defense stopped the Farmers and their attempted short field goal went off to the right.

SECOND HALF:

St. John moved nowhere on its first possession of the second half and the Farmers began to crank up the “John Deere”. Mixing the run and the pass the FHS boys moved right down the field to score the eventual winning points. Nation and Brown capped the drive with their short TD pass play and FHS was up for good, 6-2.

Again, St. John could not move the ball and back came the visitors. Brown broke free on his longest run of the game and it proved to be a 34-yard touchdown play. A run provided a two-point conversion and a 14-2 FHS lead.

St. John bobbled the ensuing kickoff for poor field position, but Martinez connected with senior wide receiver Aaron Hughes for a 45-yard pass completion and a first down near midfield. However, an incompletion and two runs that netted minus yards forced the Eagles to punt again.

Back came the Farmers with a big pass from Nation to Brown late in the third stanza. The Farmers continued to march down the field with Brown contributing key runs and eventually Peterson swept around the weakside, broke a tackle and found wide open spaces for a quick run down the Eagle sidelines for the final touchdown of the game.

Forced to pass, Martinez was picked off for the second time in the game and the Farmers used the good field position to get down to the Eagle six-yardline before the locals stopped them on downs. St. John could manage only one short pass completion and gave up the ball and the game.

STATISTICS:

St. John finished with eight first downs to go with 102 yards rushing and 60 yards in the air. Johnson led the way with 58 yards on 13 carries and finished the season with 1,045 yards on the ground in 11 games. Morgan closed out with close to 650 yards for the season, while Hemenway did not get very many chances to run and closed with around 540 yards for the season. Martinez reached the 770-yard mark in the air.

Unlike their outstanding road performance the week before in a 42-34 victory over St. Helena Central, the Eagles had a number of miscues. They made six turnovers in their District 7-2A title game loss to Donaldsonville at home two weeks prior and they practically matched that mistake level in Friday night’s regional loss.

Farmerville was held to one of its lowest offensive totals of the season, but it was enough to claim the 20-point victory Friday night. The Farmers had nine first downs, 223 yards rushing and another 61 yards in the air. The FHS boys had only the one lost fumble that led eventually to the only SJHS points of the night.