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Tarpons fall in last seconds


GALLIANO — East St. John just kept playing, and the Wildcats made one more play than South Lafourche in Friday's District 7-5A opener for both teams.

East St. John's Xavier Lewis caught a 22-yard touchdown pass with 4 seconds left in the game, and Lino Barrera's extra point became the difference in a 35-34 win over South Lafourche on Ralph Pere Field at Tarpons Memorial Stadium.

Lewis' play thwarted a furious comeback by the Tarpons after South Lafourche trailed 28-20 when Lewis scored on a short run with 9:37 left in the game. South Lafourche got a 7-yard touchdown run from Eric Vegas and a 45-yard scoring pass from Dominick Fillinich to Harvey Allen and a two-point conversion to take a 34-28 lead with 1:28 left.

East St. John (1-3 overall 1-0 in district) had several penalties and incomplete passes on the final drive, but after Lewis had a 16-yard run, the Wildcats had the ball at the 22. The Wildcats alternated quarterbacks between Lewis and Nigel Anderson and on the next play, Anderson lofted the ball to Lewis who came down with it in the end zone for the eventual winning score.

East St. John head coach Phillip Banko said his team just kept playing and found a way to win the game.

"It is tough to win here down on the bayou. South Lafourche is known for having tough teams and that is what we got," Banko said. "We played the No. 3 team in the nation (John Curtis) and the No. 9 team in the state in 5A (Rummel) and this team is as good as those. We were fortunate to get a victory, but we just kept playing. My hats off to South Lafourche but my hats off to my kids too. We kept playing and made a play when we needed it."

The Tarpons (1-3, 0-1) trailed at halftime and quickly fell behind 21-7 after Anderson hooked up with Kyle Patterson on a 16-yard scoring pass with 8:58 in the third quarter.

South Lafourche got a lucky bounce on its next possession when Shakerrin Dillon caught the ball off a tip by an East St. John defensive back for a 50-yard scoring play to make it 21-14 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

That play gave the Tarpons the momentum and after South Lafourche recovered a fumbled at East St. Johns 29, Peyton Guidry scored on a 7-yard run. However, there was a bad snap on the extra point leaving the Wildcats in front 21-20 with 2:33 still in the third quarter.

Even though Lewis (182 total yards and two total touchdowns) would score to put the Wildcats up 28-20, South Lafourche kept the momentum getting touchdowns from Vegas (61 yards rushing) and Allen to take the 34-28 lead. Allen's 45-yard touchdown reception also came off a tipped ball by an East St. John defensive back.

The lead seemed to be safe until Lewis made the game's final play and South Lafourche head coach Dennis Skains said his defense was in position, but it was the Lewis who won the battle in the end zone.

"It was a heck of a game and as a fan I'm sure they enjoyed it, but they have some great athletes and they made a play at the end," Skains said. "Obviously, it was pick your poison (on the last drive) on whether to pressure or keep them in the pocket. We mixed it up a little bit and they made the play. They have some athletes all over the field and they threw it up there and they made a play on it."

On the game-winning extra point, South Lafourche's Ashton Danos was injured and had to be taken off a stretcher, but Skains said Danos could move his arms and legs even though he didn't know the severity of the injury.

The Tarpons finished the game with 381 total yards, while the Wildcats finished with 355 yards and both teams had big plays in the first half, but getting into the end zone was a different matter.

Each team had touchdowns called back for penalties in the first half, but East St John again made one more play for a 14-7 halftime lead.

South Lafourche got of the scoreboard first when Fillinich (253 yards passing and three touchdowns) found Cullen Matherne on a 70-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Matherne used a stiff arm on a defensive back to cover the final 20 yards on the play.

East St. John answered on its next possession thanks to a 56-yard run by Lewis. That play brought the ball down to the Tarpons 19 and five plays later, Lewis finished the drive with a 2-yard run into the end zone. The extra point tied the game at 7 with 2:07 still in the first quarter.

After a Tarpons punt in the second quarter, it took the Wildcats one play to take the lead. Anderson (184 total yards and three total touchdowns) broke free on an 88-yard scoring run to make it 14-7 with 6:59 left before halftime.

The Tarpons had a chance for more points with seconds left in first half when Benny Serigny intercepted a pass but his 64-yard return came up short of the end zone.