East St. John vs. Central: What You Need to Know

east st john vs central

Baton Rouge Central (8-2) is the No. 9 seed in Class 5A and the Wildcats host No. 24 Reserve East St. John (6-4) 7 p.m. Friday night in a matchup that can be seen on YurView Louisiana and Cox Sports TV. While the seeding would indicate Central is the overwhelming favorite, keep in mind ESJ had to forfeit three of its games, so Brandon Brown’s squad is much better than the No. 24 seed.

Here’s a look inside the matchup that kicks off Friday, November 15th at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen on YurView Louisiana (Cox Ch. 4), Cox Sports TV (check local listings) and streaming on yurview.com.


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THE FORFEITS 

East St. John’s record says the Wildcats are 6-4, but they’re really 8-2 with quality wins over Destrehan and last week’s 21-14 victory over Thibodaux. But coach Brown self-reported the use of an ineligible player after the third week of the season, which erased wins against West Jefferson and Sophie B. Wright.

The LHSAA listed the games as forfeits and punished the squad with a much lower seed than ESJ deserved. Had the forfeits not occurred, ESJ would have likely been the No. 6 seed in 5A.

Brown said the ineligible player did not receive credit for work done in summer school, and he reported the issue to the LHSAA immediately when he found out after three games. Brown said he was “transparent” with his players, and the Wildcats used the seeding snub as a motivation in district play and surely will be using it again against a quality Baton Rouge Central squad.

TWO EIGHT WIN TEAMS FACE OFF 

Overlooking the forfeits, this is a matchup of two eight-win teams – something you don’t normally see in the first round of playoffs in any state, let alone in Louisiana where 32 teams qualify for the 5A bracket.

For Central, it’s sort of a raw deal, especially after a solid regular season that saw the Wildcats win their first seven games of the season. Central enters on a somewhat down note after losing to Walker and Zachary before rebounding in the final district game to beat Live Oak. But still, their reward for an 8-2 record after being picked to finish last in the district in preseason is facing one of the state’s traditional powers in the first round.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ATH SAMUEL KENERSON 5-9/160 SENIOR – CENTRAL 

Kenerson is one of the top two-sport athletes in Louisiana, starring in baseball and football. Kenerson ranks as one the No. 44 player in Louisiana and was heavily courted by Middle Tennessee, Army, Austin Peay and Georgia Southern before committing to South Alabama. He wears a lot of different hats for Central at quarterback, where he has torched defenses this season with his ability to scramble and make people miss. Coaches also believe he’s an improved passer, which will be important in the playoffs.

ATH DONTAE FLEMING 6-0/165 SENIOR – EAST ST. JOHN 

Fleming is one of the top offensive players in Louisiana with his big-play ability at receiver, running back and on special teams. Fleming had offers from Lamar, Louisiana-Monroe and heavy interest from Tulane and others before committing to Louisiana. The Ragin Cajuns love Fleming as a receiver prospect, and he could be the type of player that sees the field early for UL. He ranks as one of the top 60 players in Louisiana.

QB SEAN SHELBY 6-1/170 SENIOR – EAST ST. JOHN

The Wildcats quarterback threw for two touchdowns last week to help win the district against Thibodaux. Shelby is a dual-threat quarterback that has a knack for making big plays in key games, much like he did when he went 14 of 22 with two touchdown passes against Hahnville.

PREDICTION 

This is one of the best games not just in Louisiana but also in the country. It’s not fair for Central to host what is essentially another eight-win team and the No. 6 seed in the first round, but that’s the hand it has been dealt. Kenerson is going to need to have a monster game – and he’s capable of doing that – but East St. John has been playing playoff level football for weeks now after learning about the forfeits. That chip on their shoulder should propel them through to the next round. EAST ST. JOHN 42, CENTRAL 30

Watch first-round coverage of LHSAA Class 5A playoffs: Central Wildcats vs. East St. John Wildcats – Friday, November 15th at 7pm CT on YurView Louisiana (Cox Ch. 4), Cox Sports TV (check local listings) and streaming on yurview.com.