By Peter Pasqua
GONZALES – East Ascension High School got just enough offense late to push past arch-rival St. Amant and claim a 20-13 District 5-5A victory in the annual meeting between the nemeses Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
The Mighty Spartans (9-1, 4-1), coached by Darnell Lee and ranked No. 7 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll, scored 10 fourth quarter points after St. Amant erased a halftime deficit to take the lead and held on to claim district runners-up behind Catholic who went undefeated in league play.
The Golden Gators (7-3, 3-2), under the helm of David Oliver, held East Ascension to just four yards rushing in the first half but special teams proved costly as Jaqunn Mitchell’s 59-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter was ultimately the difference in the game.
It was the 39th meeting between the schools and with the win, the Spartans cut St. Amant’s series lead to 20-19. The Gators had won the two previous meetings including a 22-10 win last season that resulted in a split district title between the schools, the first for either in over a decade.
The defensive battle only yielded 472 total yards between both teams with each rushing for just 59 yards a piece. East Ascension did it on 31 carries and finished with 275 total yards running a total of 67 plays. St. Amant only ran 49 with just 21 rushing attempts finishing with 197 yards from scrimmage. Neither team turned the ball over.
East Ascension senior quarterback Jason Wakefield completed 19-of-36 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown. The Gators countered with dual quarterbacks Lathan Bourgeois (10-of-21 for 77 yards, rushing touchdown) and Kaleb Thompson (6-of-7, 61 yards, passing touchdown) to complete 16-of-28 passes for 138 yards.
St. Amant all-purpose back K.J. Franklin was held out of the end zone and limited to 41 yards rushing on 10 attempts and six receptions for 40 yards. Austin Bascom had a receiving touchdown to give the Gators the lead in the third quarter.
Defensive lineman Damon McDonald’s receiving touchdown was the go-ahead score and Alberto Ontiveros converted two field goals for the Spartans. Steven McBride (three receptions, 69 yards), Ar’Marius Williams (seven for 54) and Cameron Jones (five for 51) each had multiple receptions and Ethan Bagwell had 31 yards rushing on 10 attempts for EA.
Mitchell also had a pair of tackles for loss defensively for East Ascension, while Aaron Delaune had two for the Gators.
The Mighty Spartans answered St. Amant with a 14-play, 73-yard drive with 8:55 remaining when wide open McDonald, who shifted to tight end after lining up at tackle, bobbled Wakefield’s pass before securing the pigskin while rolling over on first down from the Gator 5.
Wakefield converted three third downs on the drive including a pair to McBride and one to Williams to overcome a trio of tackles for loss by St. Amant’s Reed Norwood, Reece Nelson and Jacob Mathews.
The Golden Gators took the lead on the previous series when Bascom broke free for a 28-yard touchdown reception from Thompson, whose 15-yard run sparked the the 5-play drive, after a quick three-and-out by EA with three straight in-completions. Matthew Parker’s point after touchdown kick put St. Amant ahead 13-10 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
The Spartans followed with another 13-play drive capped by Ontiveros’ 25-yard field goal with 1:48 left to play to make it a two-score game and Bourgeois fired incomplete on four straight passes on St. Amant’s final possession.
East Ascension cracked the scoreboard on Mitchell’s electrifying return with 6:35 left in the first quarter. The Gators were penalized on the opening kickoff for wearing orange jerseys and went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The Spartans’ first resulted in a missed 37-yard field goal attempt from Ontiveros.
St. Amant answered with a 15-play, 75-yard drive capped by Bourgeois’ 5-yard keeper with 48 seconds left in the first quarter but Parker never got off the extra point attempt leaving the score 7-6. Jo Williams had a 24-yard reception from Thompson and Bascom and Ethan LeBlanc each had a pair of catches on the possession to overcome tackles for loss by Mitchell and Da’Jon Jones.
Ontiveros’ 35-yard field goal made it 10-6 with 1:06 remaining in the first half. McBride’s 48-yard reception was the big play on the drive that included a 7-yard reception by McDonald from the pole cat formation.
The Spartans’ previous two possessions were promising behind a 21-yard catch by Shaivonn Robinson on the first and a trio of receptions from Jones on the second but both stalled. Cade Kernan’s punt was muffed on the later but St. Amant recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
The Gators’ final possession of the half included three straight completions to Franklin each for a first down and another to Darius Smith by Bourgeois but Parker’s 46-yard field goal attempt was well short as time expired. St. Amant’s previous two were three-and-outs.
East Ascension earned the No. 5 seed in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 5A playoffs and will host East St. John (5-5) Friday night in Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated East Jefferson in the bi-district round last season before falling to Live Oak in the second round to finish 9-3 overall.
St. Amant just missed out on a home playoff game with the No. 17 seed and travel to 16th seeded Captain Shreve (7-3) Friday night in Shreveport. The Gators bested Northshore last season in the first round and finished 10-2 after losing to Airline in the regionals.
East Ascension 20, St. Amant 10
Team SAHS EAHS
First Downs 11 18
Yards Rushing 21-59 31-59
Yards Passing 138 216
Passes (C-A-HI) 16-28-10 19-36-0
Punts-avg. 6-33.8 2-30.5
Fumbles-lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-40 4-34
St. Amant 6 0 7 0 – 13
East Ascension 7 3 0 13 – 20
EAHS: Jaqunn Mitchell 59 punt return (Alberto Ontiveros kick)
SAHS: Lathan Bourgeois 5 run (kick failed)
EAHS: Ontiveros 35 field goal
SAHS: Austin Bascom 28 pass from Kaleb Thompson (Matthew Parker kick)
EAHS: Damon McDonald 5 pass from Jason Wakefield (Ontiveros kick)
EAHS: Ontiveros 25 field goal