Spartans looking to win parish and district in 2021

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
East Ascension has not lost a game to parish rivals Dutchtown and St. Amant since 2017.

When it comes to Ascension Class 5A football, East Ascension has been on the top of the parish for the last few years.

The Spartans have not lost a game to parish rivals St. Amant and Dutchtown since 2017. And East Ascension is hoping to extend its dominance into 2021.

Like most of the other teams in the state, last season was a rollercoaster ride for the Spartans due to the pandemic.

East Ascension’s game against Dutchtown was cancelled, and so was its matchup against Woodlawn. But at the last minute, head coach Darnell Lee was able to schedule a road game against highly-ranked C.E. Byrd. It’s a game the Spartans eventually lost, 27-20.

East Ascension also had to replace its starting quarterback. The season started off with a battle for the top spot between Kullen Wheat and Troy Dunn, but Wheat eventually sustained a season-ending injury, forcing Dunn to become the full-time starter.

Despite his inexperience, Dunn helped lead the Spartans to the second round of the playoffs, before losing to eventual state champion Acadiana.

During the spring, Lee was very pleased with Dunn’s maturation at quarterback.

“Troy Dunn is a different animal now,” Lee said. “He’s got a year under his belt, he’s throwing the ball better, he knows what to expect now and he has a good feel for the plays that we’re running. The guys around him are a little bit better. We did lose some key guys on the offensive line. That’s big when your quarterback is on the move, trying to keep defenses off-balance.”

The Spartans lost a lot of talent on the offensive line, including three players that signed with colleges in Gavin Soniat, Dezmond Schuster and Canaan Quinn.

But fortunately for Dunn and East Ascension, they will return plenty of talented skill-position players.

The Spartans lost all-district wideout Navell Chopin, but they’ll bring back tight end Jacquel Mack and receivers Zhavier Jupiter and Jacorey Mitchell.

The East Ascension backfield will also be loaded with all-district running back Walter Samuel leading the charge.

“Walter Samuel is special. He’s around 205 right now, and he’s probably the fastest person on the team,” Lee said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and we’ve been running some empty-formation plays with him.”

East Ascension lost the most on defense. They’ll return only five starters on that unit from last year.

Among the departures were players like defensive linemen Jerrell Boykins, Jr. and Ashton Milton and defensive backs Blake Thompson and Kael Babin. Boykins was All-State and a Louisiana Tech signee.

But Coach Lee is thrilled that all-district middle linebacker Rionte Jones returns as the leader on defense.

He’s also excited about defensive ends Thomas Lee, Jr. and Alex Lambert and defensive backs Kendrick Broussard and Brennan Thompson.

Lee said he also expects big things from first-year starting defensive lineman Sydney Joseph.

And if it comes to special teams, East Ascension will return starting kicker Evan Kern.

“We’re going to be young in some spots, but we’re going to have some guys with experience that are going to help us,” Lee said.

The Spartans will have to be on the top of their game week in and week out. Their schedule will be absolutely brutal in 2021.

East Ascension will have non-district games against Zachary, Scotlandville, Destrehan and Walker.

In District 5-5A, they’ll face Catholic, Dutchtown, St. Amant and a vastly-improved Woodlawn squad. To win the league, they’ll have to take down defending champion Catholic, something they haven’t done since 2017.