Spartans finishing up a difficult spring

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The East Ascension offense will be headed by running back Ralph Williams in 2017. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

It was a challenging spring for East Ascension and their second-year head coach Darnell Lee, but he was pleased with the effort his team put forth, despite the obstacles that came their way.

Before the spring even began, the Spartans were dealt a blow as longtime offensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach Keragan McCready left to join Dutchtown and new head coach Guy Mistretta.

His last-minute departure forced Lee and the rest of the East Ascension coaching staff to do some scrambling.

“I’ve had to man the offense myself,” Lee said. “We’re keeping it simple, and the kids are playing hard. They’re flying around on defense and playing aggressively. Offensively, we just want to be opportunistic and take care of the football.”

In addition to losing their offensive coordinator, East Ascension was bitten by the injury bug during the spring. Coach Lee said that eight of their starters were forced to miss time after getting nicked up, and they will be without four or five starters for the spring game.

Still, Coach Lee said that there was a lot to be encouraged by during their spring session.

The Spartans lost many of their top stars from last year’s defensive unit—including District 5-5A’s Co-Defensive MVP in linebacker Justin Daniels, Parish Defensive MVP and Baylor signee Justin Harris and a Grambling State signee in defensive end Demontrey Jacobs.

But Coach Lee likes the personnel East Ascension brings back on that side of the ball.

“We have a returning all-district player in Jimel London. He’s really a do-everything type of player for us,” Lee said. “Our linebacker, Adrian Johnson is back. He was an all-district player for us last year. We have a good core. We have big Stanford Knockum at nose guard. He’s a big load in the middle. That’s the reason why we went to a 3-4 defense.”

Though the Spartans lost a versatile play-maker in Keenen Dunn that could play quarterback, running back and receiver and an All-State tackle in Oklahoma signee Adrian Ealy, they bring back some weapons on offense.

All-district players return in running back Ralph Williams and receiver Shaivonn Robinson.

Last season, replacing two-year starter Kyran Irvin (Nicholls signee) at quarterback proved to be quite difficult, but Coach Lee is happy with how his QBs have progressed during the spring.

“Jason Wakefield ended last season as the starter. He’s a junior this year, and he’s been doing a good job for us,” Lee said. “Cameron Schexnaildre has been getting better. His first time playing was last year as a junior. They’re both showing some improvement this spring.”

Much of the success of the offense will hinge on their offensive line, and the Spartans feature one of the best tackles in the state in Cameron Wire.

Before last season, Wire was best known for his exploits on the basketball court, but as a first-year starter at offensive lineman, he flourished—working his way onto the all-district team.

As a result, college scouts have been keeping a close eye on the big man. This week, he received an offer from LSU.

“He’s improved lightyears,” Lee said. “The people that looked at him last year and weren’t interested, well, they’re offering him scholarships now. It’s just a testament to how hard he’s working. He’s grown a little bit. He’s put on about 15 pounds since the basketball season, he’s getting stronger in the weight room and we just want to keep him healthy and let him enjoy his senior year.”

The Spartans will play their spring game against Live Oak on Saturday morning.

“We just want to get better,” Lee said. “Live Oak is tough. Their coach is going to have them ready to play. They’re scrappy, and they have some players coming back, so they’ll be better than they were last year. We’re just looking to do the same.”