East Ascension, Dutchtown renew rivalry to open district play

Peter Silas Pasqua
Dutchtown and East Ascension’s ground game will be crucial when they open District 5-5A Friday night at Griffin Field. Dutchtown is led by Kelvin York who has rushed for 651 yards on 76 attempts and scored four touchdowns this season. East Ascension is led by Avery Williams who has rushed for 292 yards on 61 attempts and scored three touchdowns.

East Ascension and Dutchtown both enter their annual cross-parish rivalry Friday night at Griffin Field off wins and both believe a victory their District 5-5A will help send them in the right direction to begin the second half of the season.

“It would mean our season is completely turned around,” East Ascension head coach John Lambert said. “Coming off the Walker win and having a little bit of momentum, we hope that we can put two in a row together here.”

“It is a healthy rivalry. Both schools want to win but it is not a situation where you have to guard your field and while it is young, it is still in position to grow. Dutchtown has  got to where we want to get to in terms of football. There is a little bit of fuel added to the fire every year it seems like.”

Dutchtown is coming of two consecutive victories in the match up, including a 35-7 victory a year ago, after dropping the first three in the series. The Spartans won the first three games (49-13, 28-13 and 10-0) before the Griffins broke through for a 40-20 win two seasons ago that was later forfeited due to an ineligible player.

“All that other stuff is for the fans,” Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia said. “The game. That is what it is all about. It is the next game on our schedule and it is a district game. It is a game that we have to win.

“They have been competing against each other in middle school. They grew up together. They are competing against people that they know and people that they are going to see the rest of the year at track meets, basketball games and Jambalaya Festivals. You don’t want to lose that game and have to look those people in the face for the the next 12 months.”

East Ascension (1-3) is working in a new quarterback, sophomore Emerson Foster, who replaces injured senior Adam Trahan. Foster completed all six of his passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in his first start last week, a 37-0 victory over Walker. Junior running back Avery Williams has been the Spartans offensive leader rushing for 292 yards on 61 carries and three touchdowns, including a 112-yard game in a 41-6 loss to Lutcher. Foster top targets will be Nathan Ray, Bradley Day, Matt Richard, Justin Pelle and Randell Williams.

“We have to continue to execute the offense,” Lambert said. “In those first three games we suffered because of poor execution and we felt like we didn’t lose football games. We beat ourselves. What we are trying to do Friday night against Dutchtown in a hostile environment is go in and just simply execute our offense and I think our kids understand that if we do that, then things get a heck of a lot easier.

“We need to mix it up. You can’t just sit and run the football. You have to be able to throw the ball a little bit and last week was Emerson Foster’s initiation into 5A football. This week, the initiation gets a little bit harder and so does his assignment. He has a great enthusiasm for the  game and I just think with continued practice, he is only going to get better.”

Dutchtown’s defense limited Catholic to 139 yards total offense last week shutting them out of the end zone on a goal line stand in the Griffin’s 13-7 victory. Senior linebacker Randy Thackery led Dutchtown with eight tackles, while Grant Medine and Jordan Groff each had five tackles and Richard Buckland and Justin Rivere each provided four. Kendryck Johnson also sacked Catholic quarterback Zach Oliver three times.

“I am real proud of our defense,” Saia said. “They have played well all year and have gotten better each week. They have faced a different challenge every week from a power running game at Redemptorist to Catholic High throwing it all over the field. We got to continue to improve but I am real pleased with what they have done so far.”

Dutchtown (4-0) has relied on its ground attack in its rise to No. 5 in the Class 5A poll but have focused on including a passing attack in its arsenal. Senior running back Kelvin York has rushed for 651 yards on 76 attempts and scored four touchdowns this season, including a 195-yard game against Catholic.

The Griffins’ returning leading rusher Eddie Lacy dressed but did not play against Catholic after suffering a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage. Lacy did play sparingly in Dutchtown’s wins over Broadmoor and West Jefferson and is expected to play Friday night. Lacy burned East Ascension for 168 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries last season, while York rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.

Quarterback Wesley Perkins has completed 17 of 38 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns. His top targets have been Effrem Reed, Colby Little, Greg Provo and Cody Vicknair.

“We are playing Lacy against EA,” Saia said. “We held him out for EA. We are going to play (Lacy and York). We are going to play them in the backfield together. We haven’t had them together because Eddie has been hurt obviously but he had a good week of practice so we are anticipating him to be full go.”

Lambert is confident East Ascension can handle the physical backs that are both over six feet and weigh over 225 pounds.

“That is why you go into the weight room all summer,” Lambert said. “That is why you do what you do with the iron and I think the only way you are going to find that out is too line up and see if we can stop them. Dutchtown does what Dutchtown does. That is run the ball. Certainly, they have tried to spread it out and throw it a little more this year but in the end, when it comes right down to it, Dutchtown’s meal plan is to hand that ball to York and Lacy we know that and are very aware of it. Our job is to stop it.”

East Ascension’s defense limited Walker to just 64 yards total offense last week and have been the back bone of the Spartans this season. Sophomore tackle Wade Julien led East Ascension with seven tackles last week, while Senior linebacker Andrew Parms and senior end Jake Conorely each had four tackles last week, while Q’Dareus Lomas and Brelen Aikens provided five stops and Andrew Parms and Jake Conorely each had four.

“I am real impressed with EA’s defense,” Saia said. “I think that is obviously the strength of their team and I know (defensive coordinator) Jason Brown personally and I know what a great job he does and how he gets those kids to play for him so they are going to play hard.”

Both teams know the contest is just a prelude to what District 5-5A has in store for them over the course of the next five weeks.

“Every week is a battle,” Lambert said. “Every coaching staff in this district is beyond just OK.  You have to be careful what you call. You have to aware of showing tendancies. You are challenged as a coaching staff. Physically, obviously this district is probably one of the best in the state. We have signs in the field house that say 0-0. The past can’t hear you but the future is listening and that is the idea behind all of this. We have to make sure that these kids understand that this is a new season starting Friday night. Our kids are 100 percent in the belief that we can win football games no matter who we play. We have some kids that have no fear and they just want to play. It doesn’t matter who lines up in front of them.”

Saia agrees that the district is tough and hopes Dutchtown doesn’t have a letdown this week.

“I want to win every game that I play,” Saia said. “I could care less about district. A district game is no different than any other game with the way the power points and playoff system is set up. Every game is important. Our district is just as tough as any district in the state of Louisiana and it is going to be a challenge week in and week out to play that type of competition. It happens every week that some team upsets some other team. Hopefully we have done a good job of coaching them and they are mature enough to understand that they have to play the game.”