East St. John showed what it could do when given a chance to build an early lead.
During a 2-8 season a year ago, the Wildcats constantly had to play from behind after trailing early. In the 2016 opener Friday night at Joe Keller Stadium, it was East St. John that built upon an early lead on its way to a 38-0 victory over Archbishop Shaw.
A 21-yard run by East St. John quarterback Marquis Darensbourg, who rushed seven times for 75 yards in the game, gave the Wildcats an early lead. Following a safety, a 5-yard touchdown pass from Darensbourg to Javon Antonio and a two-point conversion gave ESJ a 17-0 edge after one quarter.
“We got off to a good start. We went down and scored early and then the defense got a safety and then scored. These kids worked their butts off and they deserved it. It’s great to get off to a good start,” second-year East St. John coach Alden Foster said.
A 31-yard touchdown toss from Darensbourg to A.J. Long early in the second quarter made it 24-0. Darensbourg, who finished 10 of 22 passing for 149 yards and three touchdowns, tossed his final scoring pass of the game on a 31-yard connection with Kyle Henderson right before halftime to stretch the Wildcats lead to 31-0 at halftime.
The only score of the second half came on a 44-yard punt return for a touchdown by Shayhan Williams to account for the 38-0 final.
East St. John’s margin of victory could have been even greater if not for several big penalties.
“We jumped out early but we still had too many penalties. We had two touchdowns called back. We can’t do that against quality ball clubs. We were able to overcome those penalties at times and do some things against a team that was pretty decent, we are excited,” Foster said.
It was the biggest margin of victory for the Wildcats under Foster. It surpassed another shutout win when East St. John blanked Franklin 36-0 last season.
“Our defense played lights out,” Foster said. “We played well defensively last week (in the jamboree against St. Augustine). It’s our goal to just continue to play hard but we have to eliminate the mistakes and turnovers.”