Banks and defense carry Chalmette to key win over East Jefferson

Sep 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Sports

By Jim Bickford

After jumping out to a 28-7 lead with less than six minutes before halftime, Chalmette fought off a strong and steady East Jefferson running assault in the last 30 minutes of action to earn a playoff-like, hard-fought 35-20 non-district victory at Bobby Nuss Stadium last Friday.

The win by coach Jason Tucker’s Owls sets up this week’s battle with long-time rival and former Catholic League foe Holy Cross when the two teams tangle at Bobby Nuss Stadium Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Despite Chalmette’s 2-0 start and Holy Cross’ 0-2 record, the game should be a dog fight as it has been in many of the previous 40 meetings of the oldest public school vs. Catholic school series in the state.

The Owls’ James Banks, for the second straight game, scored four touchdowns, becoming the first player in Chalmette High’s 56-year football history to do so.

Using power runs, mostly between the tackles, the “Owl stallion” gained 176 yards on 23 carries, giving him 320 yards on 45 runs in his first two games of his senior season.

Later in the fourth quarter Banks returned a kickoff 53 yards to sap life out of EJ which had seized momentum from CHS with a 75-yard, just over nine-minute drive that stretched from the third quarter until 6:44 in the final stanza.

Not only did Banks score three times on the ground (runs of 10, nine and 32 yards), but he grabbed a Craig Sylvera swing pass and dashed 18 yards down the sidelines for a TD as the Owls took a 14-7 lead with 10:24 to play in the second quarter.

Three minutes later, he scored his third time on a nine-yard run as Chalmette took a commanding 21-7 lead after Chance Riess kicked his third extra point of five for the game.

Donald Harris raced 49 yards less than two minute after Banks’ third score and the Owls held what seemed like an unbeatable 28-7 advantage with 5:44 showing on the clock before halftime. Harris finished with 79 yards on eight runs.

And that’s when the “wildness” began, except for a short three-series exchange between Banks’ second and third six-pointers early in the second quarter. That’s when the Owls recovered (by Ruston Pritchard) an EJ fumble at the Warrior 21, only to throw an interception as they were trying to put EJ away. The Warriors didn’t keep it long and fumbled the ball right back to the Owls (recovered by Rhett Pritchard).

With a 28-7 lead, Chalmette elected to squib the kickoff, but EJ took advantage of a short field and scored quickly to cut the lead to 28-14.

The Warriors’ defense held on the Owls’ next possession and forced a punt. Chalmette, which at times uses a field goal try instead of a punt (legal in high school), elected to attempt one from its own 32. The Warriors blocked the field goal kick and gained possession at the Owl 17 with not much time before half.

Chalmette’s defense showed its mettle. On the last play of the first half, Owls’ Sean Esponge and Chris Scallan and a few more maroon-colored jerseys stopped EJ quarterback Jared Lewis short of the goal and preserve a 28-14 Owl lead at half.

Esponge led the Owls with 15 tackles and he was closely followed by Jermaine Brisco with 14 including six solos with two for losses.

Daniel Thompson and Johnquel Jones added 10 each with Thompson making four solos.

Ruston Pritchard, David Smith and Scallan recorded eight each and Rhett Pritchard added seven and a fumble recovery like his younger brother. Ruston had three tackles for losses.

With the Owls holding a 28-20 lead late in the fourth quarter, Chalmette squashed EJ’s final possession on a fourth and one at the Warrior 29. Banks finished off the game with a 32-yard dive, breaking two tacklers and scored his fourth time for the second straight game.

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