East Ascension edges East St. John in battle of defense to open Class 5A playoffs

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GONZALES – The No. 5 seeded Spartans of East Ascension held on for a 17-13 class 5A playoff victory Friday night over East St. John thanks to a huge stop from safety Jaqunn Mitchell.

East St. John quarterback Sean Shelby was brought down one yard short of the mark to make on a fourth down scramble with less than a minute to play.

East Ascension (10-1) moves on to take on Slidell.

Despite the 13 points by the 28th-seeded Wildcats, the defense of the Spartans pitched a shutout with both ESJ scores coming on defense.

“(The defense) saved us tonight, point blank,” said East Ascension coach Darnell Lee. “Just 13 points and they didn’t score a single one on our defense.”

East Ascension took the lead for good on a fumble recovery in the endzone . Dorrell McKenzie supplied the hit as Jacoby Reed fell on the ball at the 8:01 mark of the third period.

“Hats to our guys, but East Ascension is a good football team. They made the plays they were supposed to make. We had opportunities and didn’t capitalize,” said ESJ head coach Brandon Brown.

The only one offensive touchdown came on East Ascension’s opening drive, a 52-yard march capped by 13-yard run from Evan Copeland.

Spartans primary runner Ethan Bagwell left with contest with what appeared to be a leg injury. In his place. Copeland managed 157 yards on 21 rushes.

East St. John got on the board after fumbling the ball away on the Spartans one yard line. On the next play, Welland Williams fell on a fumble to pull the Wildcats to within a point at 7-6.

East Ascension increased their advantage to 10-6 on a 25-yard field goal from the leg of Alberto Ontiveros.

It appeared the Spartans were headed into the locker room with a lead, but the Wildcats had other ideas on defense. Jarius Monroe stole a lateral from Jhyrin Johnson and rumbled 79 yards to the house on the final play of the first half to put East St. John up 13-10. But it was the East Ascension defense that won the night in the second half.

East St. John finished the season at 5-6. “We’re building something,” said Brown. “But we’ve got a ways to go.”

The Spartans look ahead while hoping for more balance next week after a win carried by defense.

“We gotta do better on offense,” said Lee. “But I’m really proud of our fight and our guys didn’t let me down.”

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