Spartans to host Lambert’s former team, Hahnville

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension’s Nathan Ray hauls in a 14-yard pass ahead of Dutchtown’s Todd Pursor last week. Ray and the Spartans host Hahnville Friday night.

East Ascension head coach John Lambert will see familiar faces across the field Friday night when the Spartans host Hahnville in a District 5-5A contest at Spartan Stadium.

Lambert, in his second year as head coach of the Spartans, spent eight years at Hahnville as an assistant under Tigers head coach Lou Valdin.

“Ihave tried to bring a lot of it here,” Lambert said. “I learned almost everything I know in coaching from Lou Valdin. If you are going to have a mentor, he is the guy you want to have. He gives kids opportunities to play on the next level. He is a special guy and will always have a special place in my heart. This may be the last time we play them and I sure would like to beat him at least once.”

“It was harder to play against them last year because a lot of those kids I was with for three years in the weight room and knew a lot of them. a lot of the kids playing right now are younger kids.  I think they are a year are two away from making another run to the Dome. They have that kind of talent. There were times against Destrehan that they had 10 sophomores on the field out of 11 on defense. That is going to make a difference in the end and they are going to become a better football team because of it.”

Both East Ascension and Hahnville are coming off losses to parish rivals last Friday night. The Spartans (1-4, 0-1) fell to Dutchtown, 30-7, while the Tigers (3-2, 0-1) dropped a 33-7 decision at Destrehan.

The Tigers’ are replacing its offensive arsenal after graduating quarterback B.J. Young, running back Greg Julien and wide receiver LaRon Bryd from a year ago. Guiseppe Crovetto has passed for 251 yards completing 21 of 63 passes for two touchdowns and Brian Ensminger has thrown for 114 yards completing 7 of 17 throws. The top target has been James Butler with 15 catches for 224 yards. Jai Steib leads the team in rushing with 330 yards on 82 carries to go with six touchdowns.

“They are very young on offense,” Lambert said. “If we don’t put our defense in bad situations, we can have success against Hahnville.”

East Ascension’s defense has been the back-bone of the Spartans this season, holding the metro area’s Class 5A leading rusher, Dutchtown’s Kelvin York, to just 29 yards last week. Linebacker Chase Thomas led the charge with 12 tackles, while tackle Wade Julien added 10 and safety Matt Richard and ends Ryan Moll and Q’Dareus Lomas each had seven.

Hahnville’s defense has surrendered 15.8 points per game this season and is led by top prospects in cornerbacks Danzell Lockett and Antoine Evans.

“Again, their strong points is defense and it always will be as long as Lou Valdin is at that school,” Lambert said.  “We have a good gameplan and our kids believe in what we are doing. It is easy to say we have to execute, but to do it is tough sometimes and we have struggled with it this season.”

East Ascension’s offense had success moving the football against Dutchtown, but was held out of the end zone for the third game this season. Running back Avery Williams has rushed for 366 yards on 82 carries scoring three touchdowns. Quarterback Emerson Foster completed 5 of 16 passes for 60 yards in only his second start with completions to Nathan Ray, Bradley Day, Justin Pelle and Darrell Spears.

“Our kids just have to understand that in order for us to win football games, we have to get across the goal line,” Lambert said. “I think sometimes our kids operate a little bit better in open space. All week long, we have worked on the 20 in, to get them to understand when we are in the blue zone, we have to score. It is very important and hopefully, they are starting to pick up on that.”

Lambert said the key will be to play smart football.

“Hahnville is the type of team that is going to capitalize on your mistakes,” Lambert said. “You have to be careful what you do and make sure what you do is the correct thing. We have narrowed down our offensive package. We are not enabling them but we will hold them responsible for the positions they play and try to make it easier to convert no matter what defense jumps up in front of you.

“It is important for us to continue to focus on the final goal and that is getting into the playoffs.”

East Ascension will travel to long-time rival St. Amant next week.