EA will feature plenty of weapons on offense

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
East Ascension will return a deep receiving corps, which will feature all-district standout Zhavier Jupiter.

East Ascension will head into 2022 with uncertainty in the passing game, as the Spartans replace a two-year starter at quarterback.

But fortunately for East Ascension, it will return one of the strongest rushing attacks in the area. The Spartans will bring back two all-district running backs, including Tulane commit Walter Samuel.

Last season, East Ascension finished with a 5-3 regular-season record. The Spartans went on to collect a first-round playoff victory for the sixth straight season.

In round two, they were eliminated after a 24-21 loss to eventual undefeated state champion Zachary.

That team lost some key pieces, which included defensive linemen Thomas Lee, Jr. and Alex Lambert, offensive lineman Jayven Richardson, kicker Evan Kern, receiver Allen Stark and quarterback Troy Dunn.

Dunn had started for the Spartans for the past two seasons. With him gone, East Ascension will now look to Chris Carcisse to lead them from under center. Jaylon Lee will be the backup.

The Spartans’ offensive line will be anchored by Kelvin Gray, Chantz Banks and Aiden Joseph. Joseph will be transitioning from nose guard to center.

Though Carcisse is inexperienced, he’ll have many weapons at his disposal in the passing game. The Spartans will return arguably the best receiving corps in the parish.

During the spring, it really caught the eye of head coach Darnell Lee.

“Brennon Thompson is special. Jacorey Mitchell is having a great spring,” Lee said. “Jackson Chiasson is really smooth. He did a good job on JV last year, and he’s been earning a spot. Joseph Hobdy is back. He beefed up to 230 pounds and will be tight end/H-Back. And we still have the old man, Zhavier Jupiter. So, we have the skill. We have all the pieces; we just have to get it together and build some chemistry.”

Despite the talent in the receiving corps, the Spartans’ offense will begin and end with the running game.

East Ascension’s rushing attack will be led by senior speedster Walter Samuel, who rushed for 803 yards and eight touchdowns last season. 

He will be complimented by Jacorey Johnson. The fellow senior was a second-team all-district selection in 2021.

“We’re going to have to run the football,” Lee said. “We have good enough athletes on the perimeter. You have to run to set up the pass, and I think we can put some packages in to get the ball in Brennon Thompson’s hands, as well as Zhavier Jupiter and Jacorey Mitchell. Hopefully, that can loosen up the box. That’s what we did down the stretch last season. That opened up some lanes for Walter Samuel and Jacorey Johnson. We have to build around those running backs.”

Defensively, Coach Lee said that he’s expecting big things from the senior linebacker duo of Joshua Berfect and Antwone Foster. Befect was a first-team all-district selection last season.

From the secondary, Coach Lee is expecting good things from two first-year starters in defensive backs N’derius Walker and Tanner Stanga.

Lee went on to say that this year’s biggest team strengths are chemistry and focus. The Spartans will need both to navigate the brutal schedule they’ll face in 2022.

In addition to the new-look District 5-5A, which will feature Dutchtown, St. Amant, Denham Springs, Live Oak and Walker, East Ascension will face a daunting non-district slate.

The Spartans will have matchups against Zachary, West Monroe, Destrehan, Alexandria and De La Salle.

“We are going to have to be mentally and physically tough to compete with the schedule we have,” Lee said. “Our guys will be up to the challenge. We will have to execute in all three phases to compete.”