The East Ascension Spartans finished last season with a 6-6 record, which included a 2-3 district finish that just might not seem that impressive.

Coach Paul Bourgeois was very pleased.

“A 6-6 record might not look good on paper, but we didn’t expect the offensive line to keep us on the field as well as they did. Those guys greatly exceeded our expectations,” he said.

“We had a lot of concerns with other positions — running backs, defensive line — as the starting roster was decimated, but the offensive line performed way better than we ever could have expected,” Bourgeois said. “If anybody doesn’t realize how important an offensive line is, they really saved our season.”

The thing that gave the Spartans their success in the 2014-15 season will be a concern for this season.

“On paper, it seems like we have a fair amount of players returning, but the opposite is true as we’re empty on the offensive line,” Bourgeois said. “We will have a lot of sophomore and junior players that will have to fill the gap for the ones we lost. That’s the question that remains to be answered, is how those guys will be able to compete at this level. The way our offensive line matures as the season goes along will determine the success we have this year.”

One of Bourgeois’ observations is the toughness of schedules at the 5-5A level.

“When you’re at the top district level in the state, you play the top teams,” he said. “The district is very competitive, so there’s no break to get a rest, and the nondistrict games are not much different. The players have to play at peak levels every week just to stay competitive. That’s a lot of pressure on them both physically and mentally.”

Only three starters return on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Kyran Irvin will direct the play-making along with senior Joshua Bates at the running back position. The offensive line will be anchored by senior Gus Gutierrez.

“Gus will lead us on the offensive line as he’s the lone returner from last season’s front. He will be able to tell our new players who to block. He does it quietly and he’s smart and knows what everybody is supposed to do. This will be so important to our young line,” Bourgeois said.

Quarterback Irvin will not be a well-kept secret since he’s being highly recruited by college teams.

“Teams will be coming in with ways to stop him, and that’s going to be tough on him. It won’t be quite as easy as last year, but he’ll play to his level,” the coach said.

On the defensive side, there will be six returning starters that will help things out on that side of the ball. Senior Johnny Baker will move from cornerback to the safety position in the secondary. Senior Jamien Samson will make the play calls at linebacker joined by senior linebacker Josh Dennis. The defensive front will be led by all-district selection Jayvin Johnson. Junior Cameron Simon, a cornerback, will be a new starter who will be a factor in the defensive secondary.

The success of the Spartan football season will once again ride on the shoulders of the offensive line. Bourgeois and his staff are optimistic about their expectations for the 2015-16 football season.

Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo

The 2015 Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo will be held July 23-25.

Established in 1928, the rodeo is the oldest fishing tournament in the United States. All the festivities and weigh-ins will be held at the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo Pavilion at the end of the island. The legendary tournament has evolved into a three-day festival with activities for all ages. 

Fishing starts at dawn Thursday and the Pavilion opens to the public at 11 a.m. Sign-up for the children’s crab races will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the races will begin shortly thereafter. Kids have a ball with this one. By the time evening comes around, settle in for great live entertainment featuring Rockin Dopsie at the Pavilion.

Friday brings more fishing, crab races for the kids and nighttime entertainment featuring Top Cats. Make sure to bring your cameras for a photo opportunity with rodeo participants and special guest attendees. 

More crab races are in line for Saturday, with the awards ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. Deadline to weigh in your catch is 6 p.m. 

Dance into the evening with live entertainment provided by Wise Guys before and after the rodeo awards, which are from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Visit tarponrodeo.org for registration and rules.

Beat the heat

We’ve just had the hottest two weeks of summer weather this year. Although it doesn’t always register while being on the water, heat stress can easily happen while boating or fishing.

Fishing lends itself to motion and physical activity, so the need to keep hydrated should always be on the top of the list as plans are made. The right spot and the right baits are important but not as important as trying to keep cool and keeping your body fluid levels up to keep up with the heat.

Watersports (wake boards, tubing, etc.) drain your body of hydration, as well. Water and sports drinks need to be consumed while performing these activities. Alcohol is a diuretic (depletes fluids), so if consuming beer and such is in the plans, the need for water consumption is elevated even more.

Please take care and have fun while enjoying the outdoors!

Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net or ascension@theadvocate.com.