EA takes down champs in wild shootout
In a game that featured 71 combined points and nearly 900 combined yards, it was the defense that made all the difference for East Ascension on Friday night.
Hosting two-time defending state champion Zachary, the Spartans didn't have an answer for quarterback Keilon Brown as he racked up more than 300 total yards and four touchdowns. But in the fourth quarter, the Spartan defense forced two huge turnovers.
The East Ascension offense then turned those takeaways into two touchdowns that led to them collecting an exhilarating 40-31 upset victory.
"They fought; we fought. That's why they're the champs. Our guys stepped up," Spartan head coach Darnell Lee said. "We knew it was gonna be a battle. We both made some mistakes and faced some adversity. I'm just glad my staff came together on the sideline and the kids rallied. We had a strong fourth quarter, and we got the 'W.'"
The game was back and forth from start to finish.
To begin the contest, Jordan Goodlow broke a long punt return that set East Ascension up with first and goal at the Zachary 5. On their first play, quarterback Cameron Jones ran it in to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos then answered with 10 unanswered points. That spurt featured a 42-yard touchdown run by Brown.
Trailing 10-7 midway through the second, Jones hit Steven McBride for a 56-yard touchdown to put East Ascension back up 14-10.
Zachary went back ahead 17-14 with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Brown.
However, to close out the half, Jones broke loose on a 44-yard run, and on the very next play, he hooked up with McBride for a 20-yard score to give the Spartans a 21-17 lead at the break.
After Zachary opened the second half with a 60-yard touchdown run by Brown, East Ascension had a drive dominated by backup quarterback Hobert Grayson.
Grayson is usually known for his basketball exploits, but with Jones on the sideline fighting through cramps, Grayson came in and carried the ball five times for 65 yards. He capped it off with a two-yard score to put East Ascension back ahead, 27-24.
But Brown gave the Broncos the lead right back after breaking a 42-yard touchdown run. It put Zachary ahead 31-27 heading into the fourth.
But the final quarter belonged to East Ascension.
It began with Jyren Ester picking off Brown at the Zachary 34. Three plays later, Jones hooked up with McBride for a 29-yard score to give East Ascension a 33-31 lead.
Zachary answered with a drive that led them to the Spartan 33, but East Ascension forced a fumble with just four minutes left to play.
With the lead, Kendall Washington broke loose on runs of 12 and 43 yards on two third-down situations.
East Ascension then put the game away with a three-yard touchdown run by Jones.
Brown was every bit as good as advertised for Zachary. The four-year starter and Memphis commit had just 119 yards passing and a score through the air, but he put up 203 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Jones had 149 yards passing and three scores, and he rushed for 104 yards and two more touchdowns.
McBride had six catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
"He's a great kid," Lee said. "He works hard at practice. What you see here is what you see at practice. He's a competitor. In one-on-one drills, he wants the best DB every time. He likes going to war, and we're blessed to have him."
Grayson came in off of the bench and rushed for 83 yards and a score.
"He had fresh legs," Lee said. "He came off the bench when Cameron cramped up. He broke a few runs and got us in position.
"Our offensive line had a slow start. They gave up some penetration. Zachary is very athletic up front. Our guys slowed it down and got a good surge in the second half. Kendall Washington made some big runs, and Steven McBride was doing Steven McBride things. I think the fans got their money's worth. It was an exciting game."