RESERVE — It was the perfect trap game for the Terrebonne High football team against District 7-5A rival East St. John on Friday night.
The Tigers entered the game with a 6-0 record, but they had to take on an energized Wildcats team that celebrated their homecoming in front of a large crowd at Joe Keller Stadium.
Despite leading by just one point at halftime, Terrebonne got a key turnover from its defense and used a time-consuming rushing attack from its offense in the second half to pick up a 33-12 win.
Terrebonne (7-0 overall, 3-0 in district) is off to its best start to a season since 2010, when it opened 8-0 and won its last district title.
Tigers coach Gary Hill said his team overcame some early adversity but got the job done on the road.
“It’s 13-12 at halftime and you think it’s going to be nip-and-tuck all the way but we found a way to take the momentum and keep it,” Hill said. “That’s big on the road. It’s East St. John on their homecoming. They are a well coached ball club. I’m very pleased with the way we finished this game.”
Leading 13-12 in the third quarter, East St. John’s offense was on the move into Tigers’ territory, but on fourth-and-12 at the 21, Wildcats quarterback Sean Shelby (15-of-25, 161 yards) launched a pass into the end zone that was intercepted near the goal line by Terrebonne senior safety Anthony “TJ” Ruffin, who returned it back to the 24.
The turnover set up a huge eight-play, 76-yard drive that Terrebonne quarterback Ja’Khi Douglas (15 carrries, 109 rushing yards; 7-of-10 passing, 194 passing yards, two TDs) capped with a 1-yard touchdown run. Douglas hit senior receiver Treveon Johnson (four catches, 52 yards) on a key 32-yard pass to set up the touchdown that put Terrebonne ahead 20-12 after a field goal from Dylan Cruse with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
Terrebonne’s defense shut down East St. John the rest of the way by holding them scoreless in the second half and forcing two turnover on downs.
Ruffin said Terrebonne’s defense, which got several big sacks from Will Robinson, Cullen Butler and Colby Clement and pass breakups and tackles from JaKobe Carter and Kwan Allen, took over the game's momentum in the second half thanks to his interception.
“I think it gave us momentum,” said Ruffin, who has three interceptions this season. “We needed a big play. The receiver ran a well route and they threw the ball. I just wanted it more than he did. I’m just glad that I got it.”
With its defense keeping East St. John out of the end zone, Terrebonne’s offense (406 total yards, 212 rushing) gashed the Wildcats with a mix of run and pass in the second half.
Douglas had a key 51-yard run that moved the chains, and senior running back Chaz Ward (26 carries, 101 yards) had touchdown runs of 15 and 8 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.
Despite being without senior athlete Keshawn James, who dressed for the game but didn’t play due to a foot injury, Douglas said Terrebonne came to play when the pressure was on in the second half.
“It was a good win. In the first half, we came out a little slow, and at halftime, the coaches told us this is not how we play,” Douglas said. “We needed to go out there and play Tiger football. Offense needed to come and score, defense needed to get stops, so we came out, got stops and scored.”
After a slow start, Hill said the Tigers executed better in the second half.
“We made some adjustments and went out and performed like we have all year. They came out and did their job,” Hill said. “We’ve got to keep it going and stay humble and keep going week by week. It was a great high school football game. We are just thankful to be where we are but we have a lot more work to keep going.”
Terrebonne found trouble early in the first quarter after a high snap on a punt followed by a turnover on downs on its first two offensive possessions, giving East St. John (2-5 overall, 1-3 in district) the ball in good field position.
After forcing a turnover on downs at the Tigers’ 24, the Wildcats went up 6-0 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Shelby to Markel August with 3:26 left in the first quarter. The extra point attempt was blocked.
Terrebonne responded on its next drive on passing plays from Douglas to junior receiver Keith Robinson. After the duo hooked up on a 48-yard pass, Douglas found him again on a 12-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. Douglas scrambled right and launched the ball in the end zone, and Robinson grabbed it after it was tipped up into the air for the score as time expired in the first quarter. The extra point failed and the score was tied at 6.
In the second quarter, Terrebonne aired it out again when Douglas connected with D’Jon Scott on an 82-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-6 with 8:17 left in the second quarter.
East St. John didn’t go away. Following a 29-yard pass from Shelby to Dasmain Crosby, the Wildcats scored on a 5-yard touchdown run from Pershing Toney. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Terrebonne ahead 13-12 with 4:47 left in the second quarter.
First-year East St. John coach Brandon Brown said the Wildcats (195 total yards) had momentum early but couldn’t sustain it in the second half.
“We just didn’t come out with any fire. For whatever reason, we just didn’t come out and finish,” Brown said. “We knew coming into the game that they are a very explosive team. We talked about it all week not giving up the big plays and that’s what we did. We had several costly penalties. We just didn’t capitalize when we had opportunities.”