EA hoping improved defense carries them in 2015

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The veteran East Ascension defense will be led by cornerback Johnny Baker (No. 3). Photos by DKMoon Photography.

Last season, East Ascension exceeded the expectations of many. They're hoping for a repeat in 2015.

The Spartans bring back key weapons on offense and a defense that has gone from young and inexperienced to seasoned and ready to carry the load.

After the success they saw this past season, East Ascension is ready to break through and make a deep playoff run.

In 2014, not much was expected. The Spartans lost a bevy of talented players--including defensive leader Deandre Darville and two-time all-district quarterback Layne Trahan.

However, Kyran Irvin made the transition from defensive back to quarterback with much more ease than expected.

After East Ascension was destroyed by Plaquemine in the season opener, Irvin and the Spartans put things together and went 5-4 during the rest of the regular season. This included their first win over Dutchtown in over 10 years.

That helped East Ascension reach the playoffs, where they dismantled Sulphur, 52-14, in the opening round to advance to regionals for the second straight year.

But their run was ended on the road against top-seeded and undefeated Byrd.

The Spartans are looking to get over that second-round barrier this year and compete for a state title.

Things may not come so easily on offense as they did last year when they averaged 34 points a game.

East Ascension must replace four of their five starters on the offensive line. Three of those lost were all-district players. The only starter they'll return from that unit will be Gus Gutierrez.

Fortunately for the Spartans, they'll return Irvin--who now has a full year of starting experience under his belt. His ability to burn teams both through the air and on the ground puts plenty of pressure on opposing defenses.

At running back, though the Spartans lose the versatile Josh Walker, they return first-team all-district performer Josh Bates.

East Ascension will also be without tight end Kade Waguespack.

The Air Force signee was used in many different ways last season. Not only was he a viable weapon through the air, but he was also used as a ball carrier.

But unlike last year, the East Ascension offense will not be forced to outscore opponents. The defense they return should be one of the best in the district.

"I definitely think the strength of the team is the defensive side of the ball," head coach Paul 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 inexperienced unit had their problems last season. They gave up 30 or more points on seven separate occasions and surrendered 37 points per game overall.

This season, they have multiple players ready to emerge as the best defensive standouts in the district.

All-district player Javon Joseph returns on the defensive line, and Josh Dennis is expected to have a big year at linebacker.

Cornerback Johnny Baker has continued to get better and played exceptionally well at the Adidas State 7v7 Championship Series back in June.

"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."

The Spartans will need all the confidence they can muster this season because their schedule is absolutely brutal.

In addition to the always tough District 5-5A, East Ascension has a challenging non-district tilt that includes Denham Springs, Thibodaux, Zachary, Scotlandville and St. Charles. Those five teams combined to go 39-11 during last year's regular season.

The gauntlet will begin on Sept. 4, as the Spartans travel to Denham Springs.