On alumni night, East St. John alum and fans had plenty to cheer for as the Wildcats dominated the Buccaneers 47-7 in the season opener Friday at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve.
The Wildcats scored a touchdown on almost every possession in the half.
It all started with a 21-yard touchdown run from Calvin Gardner Jr., one of his three touchdowns in the first half, putting the Wildcats up 7-0 with 8:16 left in the first quarter.
After a Buccaneers fumble, Gardner found the endzone again, scoring from a yard out, extending the lead to 14-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
After the East St. John defense force a three-and-out, the Wildcats showed their quick-strike ability using only two plays – a 27-yard run by Sean Shelby and a 30-yard touchdown toss from the quarterback Dontae Fleming, widening the lead to 21-0 with 3:27 left in the opening quarter.
“Me and him have a saying, I ask him who can tackle you, he answers nobody, and he came out and showed that. He deserved a game like this,” said East St. John coach Brandon Brown, referring to Shelby.
The Wildcats put together an opening drive touchdown on a fourth-down conversion, courtesy of a 16-yard touchdown run from Gardner, extending the lead to 28-0 with 7:35 left in the first half.
The Buccaneers showed some life on the following kickoff as Tremell Withrow returned to kick 65 yards to the Wildcats’ 15-yard line. West Jefferson drove down to the 3-yard line. The Buccaneers went for it on fourth down and had Withrow’s pass fall short, resulting in a turnover on downs with 3:48 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats’ offense looked as it couldn’t be stopped, unless they stopped themselves.
A holding penalty negated a big run by Gardner to start the drive. On the very next play an illegal motion backed up the Wildcats even more. half the distance. Then the Wildcats came up with a 41-yard completion from Shelby to Rydell Jackson. The offense then got a rush for no gain and a delay of game penalty before electing to end the half.
“Too many penalties. We played behind the chains and we can’t do that,” said Brown.
A fumble by the Wildcats on the opening possession of the second half gave West Jefferson the ball at the ESJ 23 but a fourth-down pass by quarterback Ronja Watson was intercepted by Travis Turner.
The Wildcats needed only three plays to move 76 yards, capping the drive on a 1-yard run by Shelby to make it 34-0 with 8:08 left in the third quarter.
After the Wildcats returned a fumble for a touchdown, Turner returned his second interception of the game 45 yards for another score to make it 47-0.
West Jefferson avoided the shutout with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Withrow with 2:33 remaining in the game.
Shelby finished 8 of 11 passing for 198 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 39 yards on 10 carries. Gardner had nine carries for 90 yards. Jackson had two catches for 64 yards.
Watson finished 4 of 14 for 153 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 10 yards on nine carries. Withrow had three catches for 108 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 26 yards on seven carries.