Spartan football begins spring practice
The East Ascension Spartans began their spring practice this week with plenty of new faces to step up for some graduated seniors. They're also looking to replace two starters that unexpectedly left Ascension Parish.
Most notably, starting center Falepule Alo recently moved to Utah with his family.
“His family moved to Louisiana from Utah about 13 years ago. There was a death in the family, and his dad wanted to move back to take care of his parents," East Ascension head coach Darnell Lee said.
The implications are huge for the Spartans. Alo was all-district, All-Parish and All-State for the past two seasons.
"Losing Falepule unexpectedly was a big loss. We were counting on him, but we have some guys stepping up," Lee said. "We have returning starters in Michael Bailey, Gavin Soniat and Brenden Wenzy. One of the brightest surprises has been Demarcus Ester. He’s real green, but he’s 6-2, about 275 and mean. So, that helps, but losing Falepule is tough."
Along with Falepule, the Spartans also lost his younger brother, Johnny.
“Johnny was a starting linebacker, so they were two impact players. We lost some blue-chippers with them," Lee said. "Johnny really had a lot of potential. We’re moving Rionte Jones. He was one of our running backs last year. We’re moving him to linebacker with Javon Carter and Brent Ragusa."
East Ascension is losing some other key players on their defense. It was a unit that only surrendered 15 points per game during the 2018 regular season.
They'll be without Louisiana Tech signee Deshon Hall. The talented end was the Parish Defensive MVP.
The Spartans will also be without first-team all-district players in defensive lineman Stanford Knockum, linebacker Derrick Smith and defensive back Jaqunn Mitchell.
"Defensively, up front, we have to replace Deshon Hall," Lee said. "Dez'Mond Schuster is about 280. Ashton Milton, who we call ‘Coffee Bean,’ he’s 315, so we’re gonna have some size up front. At linebacker, Javon Carter has gone up from 230 to 258, and he’s probably gonna be seeing time at both linebacker and defensive end.
"Dajon Jones is back. He was an all-district guy for us last year. He’s another long guy for us on that defensive line. So, we’re fortunate in some areas, but there are some holes to fill. We lost some good players.”
Offensively, East Ascension has to replace a two-year starter at quarterback in Jason Wakefield, but Cameron Jones saw some in-game action last season. He was also their No. 1 QB last spring due to Wakefield being out with an injury.
"We still have some seniors in some key areas. Cameron Jones is doing a great job for us at quarterback," Lee said. "He’s gonna give us some athleticism there that we haven’t had in a while. He can make all the throws, and we have a slew of running backs. Those guys are really looking good."
Jones will be surrounded by weapons.
"Jyren Ester and Justin Walker are both back this year," Lee said. "At running back, we have Ethan Bagwell, Kendall Washington and Jeffery Hills. Jeffery's looking really good. He’s having a really good camp. We have Steven McBride at receiver, and Jyrin Johnson is back at 6-foot-4 in the slot, so we have the tools. We just have to get that chemistry and stay healthy."
Lee said that the team is young in many areas, but they've continued to get better throughout this first week of spring.
The Spartans will be looking to build on one of their best seasons in recent history.
In 2018, East Ascension went 9-1 during the regular season and finished as District 5-5A runner-up. In the playoffs, they made a run to the state quarterfinals for the first time in over a decade. There, they fell just short, losing a heartbreaker on the road to fourth-seeded John Ehret.
East Ascension will play their spring scrimmage at Live Oak on May 11.