The East Ascension High School song starts with the words: “In the sixth year of the sixties, East Ascension High began anew…”
On Friday night at Spartan Stadium before the homecoming game against Zachary, East Ascension honored the original football team from 1966. There’s a lot more history to the team than just being the original squad.
In the early 1960s, Ascension Parish made the decision to consolidate its east bank high schools. A novel idea to be sure but it didn’t come without challenges.
Combining a Class B school (Dutchtown), a Class A school (St. Amant) and a Class AA school (Gonzales) brought the football team to Class AAA, the highest in the state at that time. The expectations were high as three good football teams putting all that talent on the field at once couldn’t help but generate a great outcome. It wasn’t that easy.
Not everybody in the parish was in favor of joining the schools. The players from each team had to face the prospect of playing with guys from two teams they had been playing against. Two of the teams had been lifelong rivals. It wouldn’t be possible for all of the starters from three teams to start on one team. Some of the players couldn’t make the adjustment and quit.
In fairness, none of the three school names, colors or the mascots could be used hence the name East Ascension, the colors blue and yellow, and the Spartan for mascot. There could only be one head coach and Vernon “Coon” Schexnaydre, of the then-St. Amant Wildcats, was selected.
All of the controversies and issues faded away on the night the new Spartan football team played its first game. Ronnie Trabeau (halfback on offense and cornerback on defense) remembers: “We were playing Thibodeaux, and I made the first tackle on the opening kickoff,” Trabeau said during the Friday night celebration. “They had an all-state running back that took the kick, and I made the first tackle ever for the East Ascension Spartans. I was so excited that I ran off the field and coach told me to get back on the field to play defense.”
St. Amant’s Treville Templet was the starting quarterback; he remembered the trepidation on the team.
“The first couple of games were pretty tough, we were kinda thrown together,” Templet said. “But after that, we got to know each other and pull together as a team. It was really good.”
Former players shared memories and emotions at Friday’s event.
“It kinda brings back those memories of back in the day, to see some of my old buddies I hadn’t see in a long time; it was great,” said defensive back George Valentine. Valentine was impressed with the current players.
“As we were going through the locker room we got a chance to shake hands and talk to some of the players. The expectations I saw in their eyes were the same as we experienced all those years ago,” he said.
The walk on the field was very nostalgic for kicker and punter Don Dixon: “As I looked down at the same grass we walked on back then, where I practiced kicking and punting, it made me want to pick up a ball and kick it.”
“Man, we were just country boys back in that day. When football ended, we went back to work on the farm and didn’t think about football until the next season. These boys train all year long together. It’s a lot different,” said defensive and offensive end Johnny Babin.
The 1966 Spartans finished the inaugural season with a 5-4-1 record, which might been a disappointment to some. But it didn’t take long to gel as a team. Two years later, the players that were sophomores in ’66 led the team to a district championship with an 8-3 record. Those memories won’t soon fade.
Spartan Wall of Fame
The night was loaded with honors as Luke Marchand was selected as the 41st member of EA’s Wall of Fame. Marchand was a four-year letterman on the Spartan football team and a 1981 graduate.
The Dalton Marchand family is no stranger to this wall. “This means the world to me following my dad, Dalton, and brother, James ‘Stump’ Marchand, selected as well,” holding back the tears. “I’m just keeping the family tradition alive.”
Luke is an active member of the 300 Club, Booster Club, one of the four creators of the Spartan-Gator Shout Out in 1999. Luke also is a founding member of the David Lee/Lee Wiley Memorial tournament, which gives back to our community.
Trio inducted to Hall of Fame
Three EA graduates were named to the Spartan Hall of Fame.
Joe Clement, class of 1978, excelled in football and track while at EA. Clement was awarded a football scholarship to East Tennessee University due to his exploits on the gridiron. He served on the Student Council and was a member of FBLA.
He serves as the athletic director of Terrebonne High School. He has been active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, school improvement teams and serves as the vice president of the Louisiana High School Athletic Directors Association.
Ronnie Clement, class of ’87, shared the honor with his brother, Joe. His performance on the football field as tailback and linebacker helped lead the Spartans to the district championship in 1984 and 1985, as well as All-District honors as a senior and a football scholarship to Tulane University.
While at Tulane, Ronnie Clement was a four-year letterman and was awarded the Bill Svoboda Award for leadership and community service in the state of Louisiana as well as earning his computer science degree. He lives in Ascension Parish and gives back to his community by coaching track at Dutchtown Middle School.
Lynnika Pitts, class of 2010, was a varsity cheerleader, homecoming queen of 2009, member of the state runner-up gymnastics team, and a highly decorated track star. She was a two-time state indoor and three-time state outdoor high jump champion while competing for the Spartans. She also earned a state championship in the triple jump and holds the EAHS record for the triple jump with a 39’7” jump.
Her accomplishments in track and field earned her a scholarship to LSU, where she was a two-time All-SEC performer as well as a three-time All-American. She competes internationally in the triple jump, where she was a bronze medalist in the 2014 U.S. Outdoor Championship, and most recently earned a bronze medal at the 2015 North American, Central American and Caribbean Championship in Costa Rica this summer with a wind-aided best of 46’.