EA players make strides throughout the spring

Kyle Riviere
The Spartans will return a veteran unit on defense that looks to be the team's biggest strength.

Spring practice came to a close for East Ascension last Saturday as they took to the road and faced Live Oak in a scrimmage.

It capped off what head coach Paul Bourgeois thought was a very successful and productive spring for his team. He thought many of his players evolved from where they were when the season ended back in November.

"A lot of our starters made a big difference from the fall. Many of the kids made strides and improved from when the season ended last year," Bourgeois said.

The Spartans exceeded expectations this past season as they went 5-5 and earned a playoff berth despite losing many key starters from a year earlier--including two-time all-district quarterback Layne Trahan.

Once in the postseason, East Ascension crushed Sulphur, 52-14, in the opening round before being eliminated by top-seeded and undefeated Byrd in second-round action.

Much of the Spartans' success came offensively as they reeled off 34 points per game during the regular season.

They featured one of the best offensive lines in the district with four of their five starters earning all-district honors.

When it came to skill-position players, Air Force signee Kade Waguespack was a big threat downfield, and running backs Josh Bates and Josh Walker made up a one-two punch in the running game that was hard for any defense to stop.

First-year quarterback Kyran Irvin stepped in and became a force for East Ascension both through the air and on the ground.

Though the Spartans have lost Walker and Waguespack, many of their key returning starters really stood out to Coach Bourgeois during the spring.

"I think there were a few guys that really made comebacks and had strong springs and looked special. Our linebacker Josh Dennis really made some big plays throughout the spring," Bourgeois said. "Our cornerback Johnny Baker stepped up, and also our running back Josh Bates. He was an all-district back, so we had high expectations for him, but I think he did even better than we thought he would do."

The strengths and weaknesses for East Ascension have totally flipped from last year.

Last season, their offensive line was their greatest attribute, and their young defense was their greatest detriment.

For 2015, the Spartans have lost four of five starters from the offensive line. The only starter they return will be all-district tackle Gus Gutierrez. However, Coach Bourgeois is encouraged by the improvements he sees from his defense.

"I definitely think the strength of the team is the defensive side of the ball," Bourgeois said. "Last year, we only returned one or two starters but this year, we have seven guys coming back on that side of the ball, and they have a lot of confidence."

The young and inexperienced group was baptized by fire last season. They gave up at least 30 points on seven different occasions and surrendered 37 points per game overall.

Two of the returning players that should help the unit make drastic improvements from last season will be Baker at cornerback and Javen Joseph on the defensive line. Both players made first-team all-district a year ago.

Even with the losses on the offensive line, Coach Bourgeois was excited about what he saw during the spring.

"We have lots to look forward to. In the backfield, we have Kyran Irvin and Josh Bates returning," Bourgeois said. "They have a lot of confidence, and we have a bunch of guys returning on defense that have experience and confidence from starting last season."

Next month, the Spartans will host and compete in the Adidas State 7v7 Championship Series and come September, they'll open their season with a road matchup against Denham Springs.

East Ascension will also compete with a new district foe this year as the district adds Broadmoor.