DSHS deals EA heart-breaking loss

Kyle Riviere
Donald Russell (No. 94) and the EA defensive line sets up to stop the Denham Springs offense in the Spartans' 27-20 loss.

East Ascension now knows what the Green Bay Packers felt like last Monday night.

The Spartans suffered a heart-breaking 27-20 Homecoming loss to Denham Springs after a controversial call ended a potential game-tying drive.

The officiating crew ruled that Sione Palelei fumbled the ball at the Denham Springs 1-yard line as he attempted to stretch it into the end zone.

The call put the Spartan crowd into a raged frenzy and sent head coach Paul Bourgeois immediately looking to the officials for answers.

"We're talking about the inch-line; we're talking about a run that puts him down to an inch of the goal line," Bourgeois said. "It either gives us the opportunity to tie the game or the game is over with, so it's very tough to swallow that."

It spoiled what was supposed to be a great night for the Spartans. East Ascension was celebrating its 500th football game and the induction of six new members to their Hall of Fame and Wall of Fame.

However, the night ended with demoralization and tears for a Spartan squad that fought so hard to claw themselves back.

Both teams struggled mighty on offense as the rain steadily drowned the field throughout the night.

There was no score until the second quarter when the Spartans committed the first of three critical turnovers. This one came in the form of a muffed punt that Denham Springs recovered at the East Ascension 22-yard line.

The Yellow Jackets made the Spartans pay as Zach Born hit Sterling Sugs with a perfect over-the-shoulder pass for a 21-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but Denham Springs took a 6-0 lead.

However, the Spartans quickly answered as Michael Sparrow exploded up the middle on the ensuing kickoff and took it to the house for a 90-yard touchdown. Mason Decoteau missed the extra point, so the game remained tied.

East Ascension's offense finally got something going before the half as they systematically drove 70 yards downfield. They took a 13-6 lead into halftime when Palelei caught a backwards pass from Layne Trahan and took it to the outside for a 14-yard score.

The lead lasted until Denham Springs' first offensive play of the second half. Born kept the ball on an option-keeper and sprinted past all Spartan defenders untouched for a 59-yard tying touchdown.

East Ascension kept answering. Palelei broke loose on a long run down the sideline to get the Spartans within striking distance. He then finished the drive off with a four-yard touchdown run to give his team a 20-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The game was tied for the third time when Kalib Blanchard surged up the middle untouched for a 67-yard Denham Springs touchdown.

And with the game tied late, East Ascension committed their second costly turnover.

Palelei couldn't handle a backwards pass, and the ball was picked up by Garrett Osborne and returned 19 yards for a touchdown to give Denham Springs the 27-20 lead.

East Ascension's offense got the ball back late and valiantly marched downfield. They reached the Yellow Jacket 14-yard line when Palelei broke loose and lunged forward inside Denham Springs' 1-yard line.

The ball came loose, but Palelei appeared to be down. The refs saw it differently—ruling it a fumble that was recovered by the Yellow Jackets with only two minutes left in the game. The highly-controversial call ended the Spartans' attempt to take the game into overtime and eventually sealed the win for Denham Springs.

The aftermath was utter heartbreak for the now 2-3 Spartans. Many players broke down in tears as Bourgeois addressed them, saying it had been the worst loss of his career.

"If there was any opportunity we could give an opponent to win at a crucial time, it seems like we did it," Bourgeois said. "And to overcome all of that and to get right there at the end and it become a referee call, that's the disappointing part."

However, as demoralizing as the loss was, Bourgeois made it known to his team that they have to dig deep and respond. They can't let themselves fall apart.

His Spartan squad will have to take that message to heart as they begin district play this Friday night. They will go on the road to face 4-1 McKinley High.