Friday night in Gonzales, it was cold, wet and muddy, and visiting East St. John was tasting upset, but East Ascension's defense stood firm and said, "Not in our town."

Friday night in Gonzales, it was cold, wet and muddy, and visiting East St. John was tasting upset, but East Ascension's defense stood firm and said, "Not in our town."

The Spartan defensive unit was forced to make two huge defensive stands at the end of the game as they had their backs against their own end zone protecting a four-point lead.

East St. John reached their 4-yard line the first time, and then got down to their 9 the second, but it wasn't enough. East Ascension found a way to keep them out of the end zone, allowing the Spartans to survive and advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 17-13 win.

"The defense saved us. Point blank period," Spartan head coach Darnell Lee said. "They had 13 points, but they didn't score a single one on our defense. East St. John came in ready to play. It was the same team we saw on film.

"They were hot, and we were there before. We went up to Ruston and upset them a few years ago. I kind of got that feeling at one point in this game, but our kids didn't let me down. They fought hard."

Early on, things came easy for East Ascension.

They took the opening possession and marched 53 yards in seven plays.

Running back Evan Copeland accounted for 46 of those yards. The last 14 were good enough for a Spartan touchdown that gave them an early 7-0 lead.

However, just like the field conditions, each team's play was sloppy for the rest of the game. Many big runs by East Ascension were negated by penalties.

After the Spartan defense recovered an East St. John fumble at their 1-yard line, Copeland fumbled in the end zone.

East St. John recovered for the touchdown. After missing the extra point, they trailed 7-6 early in the second quarter.

The ensuing kickoff resulted in a big return by Jaqunn Mitchell. That set up a 25-yard field goal by Alberto Ontiveros to extend the lead to 10-6.

Although, right before the half, East Ascension was dealt terrible luck to end the half.

First, running back Ethan Babin went down with a leg injury that forced him to be carted off of the field.

"It was big. That's a great kid. He works hard, he plays with a lot of heart, and he's a lot stronger than you'll ever know," Lee said.

Soon afterward, quarterback Jason Wakefield hit Jyrin Johnson for a short gain, but he was stripped of the ball. East St. John recovered and returned it for a touchdown as time expired in the first half.

They had a 13-10 lead at the break, despite having just 83 total yards.

On their first drive of the second half, East Ascension quickly marched downfield. Wakefield took an option-keeper 23 yards, though he was stripped at the 1-yard line.

But the Spartan defense got the ball back. Two plays later, Donrell McKenzie forced a fumble, and Jacolby Reed recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to give East Ascension a 17-13 lead early in the third.

East St. John had two chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter.

First, they drove 57 yards in 12 plays and reached the Spartan 4-yard line, but East Ascension turned them over on downs.

The Spartans failed to move the chains, so they had to punt the ball away.

East St. John then drove 41 yards in eight plays and reached the East Ascension 9. Quarterback Sean Shelby scrambled on fourth and 10, but he was stopped just short of the first down.

The turnover clinched the game for the Spartans.

Copeland had a huge game for East Ascension on the ground as he carried the ball 24 times for 165 yards and a touchdown.

"That's how he's been all year. He's a downhill runner. They call him 'The Bull,'” Lee said. "He came to the sideline with some hurt ribs midway through the third quarter. They were checking on him. They came to me telling me he may be out for the rest of the game, and Evan ran up to me and said, 'No, Coach, I'm ready.' That's the kind of kid he is."

Before getting injured, Babin had 68 yards on 10 carries.

East Ascension will now host 12th-seeded Slidell this Friday night.