Gators outlast Spartans to claim share of district title
After Friday night, District 5-5A belongs to Ascension Parish.
In one of their biggest clashes in recent memory, archrivals St. Amant and East Ascension met at The Pit for their annual battle, but this time, a district championship was on the line.
Down 10-7 at halftime, the Gators scored 15 unanswered points in the second half to earn a 22-10 victory. This made St. Amant and East Ascension co-champions of the district.
"We have to share it, but we'll take it. If we have to share with anyone, I'm glad it's someone from Ascension Parish," Gator head coach David Oliver said.
East Ascension had an opportunity to win the league title outright with a win, but they missed out on some prime opportunities throughout the game.
"Coach [Oliver] has a good staff over there. That team is seasoned. To end up being co-district champions after losing so many seniors, hats off to them," Spartan head coach Darnell Lee said.
East Ascension had a chance at a big play on their first offensive snap.
All-district receiver Shaivonn Robinson ran down the sideline wide open. Quarterback Jason Wakefield got him the ball, but he dropped it.
The rest of the first quarter was a defensive slugfest. However, the Gators got a drive going right before the end of the period.
They drove 80 yards in nine plays, and on the second play of the second quarter, they took a 7-0 lead with a 17-yard touchdown run by Cade Nelson.
The Spartans had a prompt answer as they put together an impressive six-play, 65-yard drive.
Wakefield converted a big third-and-12 by hitting Robinson for 16, and he then tied the game by hitting Robinson for an 18-yard score.
Just before the half, the East Ascension defense got involved as Deshon Hall came up with a sack/fumble of Gator quarterback Halen Miller.
The Spartans recovered the ball at the St. Amant 43, and with the help of two Gator penalties, they were able to convert a 37-yard Ryan Gremillion field goal on the last play of the half to take a 10-7 lead.
"We felt like we contributed to some of their field position and scores with some discipline penalties," Oliver said. "We jumped offsides and roughed the quarterback. We extended some drives for them, and they ended up taking a lead into halftime. I thought the biggest thing was correcting those mistakes in the second half."
That's exactly what St. Amant did.
On their first drive of the second half, the Gators drove 75 yards in 12 plays and took a 14-10 lead with a one-yard touchdown run by Miller.
After K.J. Franklin came up with an amazing diving interception on East Ascension's next drive, the Gators reached the Spartan 5, but a Miller pass was batted and intercepted by Darren Wilson.
However, Wilson went down in the end zone after crossing the goal line. It was ruled a safety, extending the St. Amant lead to 16-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
East Ascension had a chance to take the lead late when Wakefield hit Markquell Stewart for 53 yards down to the St. Amant 4.
However, two Spartan penalties pushed them back to the 25. On third and long, Wakefield was hit as he threw. The ball was picked off by Reid Babin, who returned it to the East Ascension 25.
Three plays later, the Gators put the game away with a 15-yard touchdown run by Nelson.
St. Amant's offense stayed on the ground. Miller only threw the ball 15 times, but he carried the ball 17 times for 76 yards and a score.
Nelson was a workhorse as he toted the rock 34 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's been there for us every time," Oliver said. "He's a 1,200-yard back, so I guess you can say we leaned on him and let him put the team on his shoulders, and he delivered, along with the O-line and the quarterback. It really was a great team effort."
East Ascension was held to 181 total yards, with only 41 coming on the ground.
Wakefield threw for 140 yards and a score, but he was picked off twice.
Coach Lee said that his team can't get too down by the loss. They must bounce back quickly.
"I just feel like it's an emotional loss," Lee said. "It's very emotional, because it's what our kids are going to have to listen to now for 365 days. But in the big picture, we're in the playoffs, we're in the top 10 and we have a home game coming up next week."
No. 6 East Ascension will host No. 27 East Jefferson on Friday night, while No. 5 St. Amant will host No. 28 Northshore.