Spartans looking for better start in 2017

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Jimel London will return as a dangerous two-way threat for the Spartans. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

East Ascension lost seven starters from 2016 that went on to sign college scholarships—including two Big 12 signees in Adrian Ealy (Oklahoma) and Justin Harris (Baylor).

Parting ways with such a heralded field may seem daunting for other teams, but second-year head coach Darnell Lee remains optimistic about his 2017 squad because of the great talent the Spartans return.

Last season, East Ascension was in a situation very similar. They entered the year with many first-time starters, including at quarterback.

They lost a two-year starter from under center in Kyran Irvin (Nicholls signee). His loss really hampered the Spartan offense in 2016.

East Ascension was forced to use three quarterbacks throughout the course of the season. This included receiver Keenen Dunn, Jason Wakefield and a converted baseball player in Cameron Schexnaildre—who was brand new to the position.

The three produced mixed results, but their play did improve toward the end of the season.

After an 0-6 start, East Ascension won their final three regular season games, and then upset No. 6 Ruston on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

From that team, the Spartans had seven players sign with colleges on National Signing Day: Ealy, Harris, offensive lineman Trevor Fleming (Grambling), defensive lineman Demontrey Jacobs (Grambling), District 5-5A Co-Defensive MVP Justin Daniels (Hutchison Community College), receiver Dylan Williams (Peal River Community College) and defensive lineman Gage Bourgeois (Pearl River Community College).

But unlike last year, the Spartans will have some much-needed experience at quarterback in 2017.

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

And though the Spartans will be without two all-district and All-Parish offensive linemen in Ealy and Fleming, they return one of the best prospects in the state in senior Cameron Wire.

Wire broke into the starting lineup last season and wasted no time making an impression on scouts. During the summer, he committed to 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.”

Fortunately for East Ascension, they’ll also return some key offensive weapons in first-team all-district running back Ralph Williams and all-district receiver Shaivonn Robinson.

Other players that should make some noise are receivers Tyrek Johnson and Marquell Stewart, running back Nick Massey and athlete Jimel London.

London, a Spartan basketball stalwart, joined the football team for the first time last year and become an all-district cornerback. At the end of the season, he also became a dangerous offensive weapon at running back and slot receiver.

East Ascension lost some heavy-hitters on defense, but overall, they will return seven starters.

Their returners include all-district linebacker Adrian Johnson. Coach Lee said that he also expects Chris Middleton to emerge as one of the Spartans’ top backers.

In special teams, East Ascension will be happy to return one of the best kickers in the parish in Ryan Gremillion.

“We have talent at all positions, but it has to all come together in order to have success with the schedule we have,” Lee said.

Like last year, the Spartans’ schedule is a mine field.

In addition to the challenging district tilt, they’ll have tough non-league matchups against Lutcher, Parkview Baptist, Thibodaux and St. Charles.