Spartans take advantage of Gators’ mistakes in 13-7 win

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension’s Marcus Bailey celebrates the Spartans’ 13-7 victory over St. Amant Friday night as the final seconds tick off the clock. Bailey scored on an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and had 37 yards rushing on 11 carries.

ST. AMANT - East Ascension took advantage of three St. Amant turnovers and held off the Gators for a 13-7 District 6-5A victory Friday night at The Pit, capping a week of community festivities associated with the long-time traditional rivalry.

The Spartans’ close victory added to the mystique of the series heading into its 30th year and cut St. Amant’s advantage in the rivalry to 15-14.

“If you don’t believe now, you are crazy,” East Ascension head coach John Lambert told his team after the game. 

The game was about as evenly matched as possible on the stat sheet and the scoreboard until Matt Richard hauled in a 60-yard touchdown pass from Emerson Foster and raced into the end zone late in the fourth quarter for the deciding difference.

“I came from a place where rivalries are mean,” Lambert said. “This place, the rivalry is about community. It really is. We won a football game tonight but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people of St. Amant because we came together this week to raise money for these programs so the kids can have it better and that is bottom line. That is what we are all about.”

St. Amant (0-7, 0-3) drove to the EA 11 on the final series of the game but threw three consecutive incomplete passes sealing the victory for East Ascension (2-5, 1-2).

“Certainly it is a letdown,” St. Amant head coach David Oliver said. “Our kids worked hard. Our kids played hard and we had a chance to win in the end and that is usually all you can ask for. You have to give EA a lot of credit. The team that made the fewest mistakes won.”

“The rivalry was intense. I thought the fans on both sides were great and I thought the kids on both sides played a hard, classy game. This one turned out like they usually turn out. The team that made the fewest mistakes won. They had the one big play and  a 20-yard drive off a turnover. We turned the ball over three times and I don’t believe they turned it over. They did a nice job of protecting the ball and it is as simple as that. They made fewer mistakes in a tight ballgame and came out with the win.”

Blake Hill recovered Jaylin LeBlanc’s fumble at the EA 27 and two plays later, Richard ran under Foster’s loft and jetted into the end zone. Chase Hitchcock blocked Matt Stafford’s kick to leave the score 13-7 with 4:46 left to play.

“They hit the one play,” Oliver said. “They got behind the secondary but other than that our defense was solid all night and got a lot of three and outs. (EA) made the plays when they had to.”

Richard hauled in Foster’s 34-yard pass for a touchdown on the Spartans’ previous possession but was flagged for offensive pass interference.

“Matt Richard is the best athlete we have on the football team and we try to sneak him in where we can without teams seeing him,” Lambert said. “We stuck him in a few times and didn’t do anything. That penalty just tore our guts out. I am just so happy for our kids. They just deserve this for all their hard work.”

St. Amant drove 61 yards on their final 12-play drive but with 28.6 seconds remaining, LeBlanc overthrew Chase Keller on fourth down. LeBlanc kept for 14 yards to open the possession before Tyler Guillory’s 12-yard keeper and Tre`Vaughn’s 9-yard option run to the right converted a third down at the EA 11. 

“Our defense has been our stone all year long,” Lambert said. “It has been important to us that they are on the field in crucial times and tonight when it was the most crucial of times, they had a great stop and gave us a victory.”

Foster took a knee on the change of possession setting off a celebration by East Ascension players and students.

Neither team was able to sustain a drive in the first half playing to a 7-7 tie by way of the others’ mistake. The statistics were knotted as well as neither team completed a pass. St. Amant rushed for 79 yards, while East Ascension had 78 yards on the ground.

Both teams were forced into three-and-outs to open the contest before East Ascension picked up the games’ initial first down on a Gator penalty but Zach Whittington dropped Avery Williams for a loss to halt the drive.

St. Amant drove pass midfield on the ensuing possession courtesy of Adrian Bourgeois’ 17 yards on four carries but were forced to punt.

LeBlanc’ capped the Gators’ next possession with a 17-yard option keeper down the left sideline. St. Amant took advantage of a personal foul against East Ascension after LeBlanc’s 13-yard keeper kick started the drive. Vaughn’s 17-yard punt return set the Gators up in EA territory at the 43-yard line. Colby Robert’s kick gave St. Amant a 7-0 lead with 11:07 left to play in the first half.

Wade Julien recovered Bourgeois’ fumble on the first play of the Gators’ next possession at the St. Amant 43  after Whittington and Jake Roberts hit Williams for a loss to hinder East Ascension’s ensuing series but a holding penalty forced the Spartans to punt and Stafford’s pooch set the Gators back to their own 4-yard line.

Marcus Bailey hit pay dirt off left tackle from 11 yards after a 14-yard run by Williams following Hill’s recovery of LeBlanc’s fumble at the St. Amant 20 a play after LeBlanc’s 16-yard keeper. Stafford’s kick knotted it up 7-7 with four minutes left in the half.

Neither team was able to pass midfield the remaining of the half.

St. Amant gained two first downs on the opening possession of the second half behind Vaughn’s 13-yard option run to the right before being tattooed by Q’Dareus Lomas  who later dropped Matt Marrero for a 5-yard loss which forced the Gators to punt.

“It has been awhile since we have been tied at half and our kids came out of half-time pumped,” Lambert said. “I have a great group of seniors who were jumping around and telling them how important it was to come out in the second half with intensity and fire. I can’t say enough about my seniors. Every week, win or loss they have been with me and they absolutely believe in what we are doing as a coaching staff, school and team and it made a difference tonight.”

Williams stutter stepped 12-yards on the first play of the ensuing possession before rumbling 44 yards into Gators’ territory but a host of St. Amant defenders stuffed him on fourth down at the 6-yard line.

St. Amant was hampered by a holding penalty on the next possession and Foster scrambled 16 yards into Gator’ territory on the Spartans’ ensuing possession before Richard’s penalty.

LeBlanc connected with Breck Schexnayder for 31 yards deep over the middle to open the Gators’ next series and kept for 11 yards to the EA 21 before fumbling.

Williams led all rushers with 86 yards on 14 carries. Bailey added 37 yards on 11 attempts for the Spartans.

LeBlanc and Bourgeois each had 75 yards for St. Amant on 12 and 16 carries, respectively.

St. Amant travels to another parish rival, Dutchtown (6-1, 2-1), Friday night at Griffin Field, while East Ascension travels to No. 2 Destrehan (7-0, 3-0).

St. Amant quarterback Jaylin LeBlanc attempts to elude East Ascension Trey Griggs Friday night. LeBlanc scored the Gators lone touchdown and had 75 yards rushing on 12 attempts.