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EA football players sign with colleges

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
East Ascension’s Canaan Quinn (left) and Dezmond Schuster were among the six Spartans to sign with colleges on National Signing Day.
Blake Thompson signed with Southern
Gavin Soniat will be a preferred walk-on at Louisiana Tech.
Jerrell Boykins, Jr. signed with Louisiana Tech.
Navell Chopin signed with Houston Baptist.

It was another year, another National Signing Day celebration at East Ascension High last week.

Last Wednesday night, six Spartans signed their letters of intent to continue their football careers at the next level.

The signees were Jerrell Boykins, Jr., Gavin Soniat, Blake Thompson, Navell Chopin, Canaan Quinn and Dezmond Schuster.

"This is a special class. They had to persevere a pandemic," East Ascension head coach Darnell Lee said. "These guys avoided parties, avoided doing all of the things you do as a high-school senior for fun in order to extend their senior years. 

“They put everyone before themselves. They wanted to go out and do things to have fun, but they knew that one mistake--one instant of them being at the wrong place at the wrong time--could cost their teammates and our seniors."

East Ascension went 4-3 during the regular season and hosted a first-round playoff game, a contest they won against Captain Shreve. 

They went on to be eliminated by top seed and eventual state champion Acadiana in the second round.

"We finished the season 5-4. The four teams that we lost to all played for championships. This group didn't back down from any comers," Lee said.

Boykins was a first-team All-District 5-5A defensive lineman for the Spartans this past season. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was also honorable mention All-State.

Boykins signed with Louisiana Tech.

"He's been through a lot. Everyone here has rallied the troops and been here for him and the rest of our seniors," Lee said. "Jerrell was in talks with Ole Miss, Texas A&M and some other schools, but when COVID hit, seniors started coming back and scholarships started being taken. Louisiana Tech never faded on him."

Soniat will also be heading to Louisiana Tech as a preferred walk-on.

Soniat was a first-team all-district offensive lineman in 2020, and he was honorable mention All-State.

He's an exceptional student that has a 4.0 GPA, and he scored a 31 on his ACT. Soniat is also a standout wrestler. He was the state runner-up at 285 pounds last year. Soniat actually competed in the state title match with a fractured hip.

Soniat began his football career as a guard and tackle, but he moved to center.

"My hat goes off to his parents for raising him. My hat goes off to Gavin for being selfless and putting the team before himself," Lee said.

Thompson signed with Southern.

He fought through plenty of adversity throughout his career at East Ascension. He had a knee injury during his sophomore season. As a junior, he broke his collarbone, and when he returned that season, he re-injured it.

In 2020, he was a first-team all-district defensive back for the Spartans.

"Coming into this year, he was on a mission," Lee said. "He came back as one of our leaders on defense, had a great senior year and now he has the chance to go to Southern University and fulfill his dreams because he never gave up and never lost faith."

Chopin signed with Houston Baptist. He was a first-team all-district wide receiver this past season.

"When we lost Steven McBride (Kansas signee) and all of those guys, people said that it was Navell Chopin's turn to be Steve this year. No, Navell is Navell. He's a totally different animal," Lee said. "He's physical, he loves the weight room and he takes pride in the small things. He blocks, he's a selfless player and he came out and gave us everything he had." 

Quinn was playing at Sam Houston last season, but after Hurricane Laura devastated Lake Charles, his family relocated to Ascension Parish, where he attended East Ascension, his dad's alma mater.

Quinn became a starter on the offensive line for the Spartans. He was a second-team all-district selection.

Quinn signed with Northwestern State.

Coach Lee described Schuster as a "gentle giant, but he has a mean streak." 

The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder began his career as a defensive lineman, but he was moved to offensive tackle. Coaches thought he had the potential of Adrian Ely (Oklahoma signee) or Cameron Wire (LSU signee).

Schuster was having a great fall camp, but he was sidetracked by a knee injury.

Still, he was able to become a second-team all-district performer. Schuster signed with Hutchinson Community College.