Ascension Parish — yep, they’re all in.
“When they say ‘Ascension Strong’ around here, they mean it,” East Ascension coach Darnell Lee said. “If we’re not playing each other, we’re pulling for each other.”
Lee’s sixth-seeded Spartans were part of an impressive Ascension Parish sweep in the first round of the LHSAA football playoffs. And with all five Ascension schools advancing to the next round, the excitement is building.
“What this has done for our school and the whole community is exciting,” Donaldsonville coach Brian Richardson said. “Donaldsonville hadn’t won a home playoff game since 2010 and the last time we won a playoff game was in 2014.”
Two of the five Ascension teams host second-round 5A nonselect playoff games Friday night. Fifth-seeded St. Amant (10-1) hosts No. 12 Airline (8-3), while No. 17 Dutchtown (7-4) hosts top-seeded West Monroe (11-0). Lee and No. 6 East Ascension (9-2) travel to No. 22 Live Oak (6-5) for an all-local second-round game.
Dutchtown is not the only team facing a top-seeded team from the Monroe area. Richardson’s 16th-seeded Tigers (8-3) travel to play No. 1 Sterlington (11-0). Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Ascension Catholic (9-2) travels to No. 3 St. Edmund (10-1) for a select Division IV quarterfinal.
The bonds of community and football flow through all the Ascension schools. Lee recalls hearing fans cheer when the announcer told fans St. Amant was ahead of Northshore on Friday. Donaldsonville and Ascension Catholic share Floyd Boutte Memorial Stadium in Donaldsonville and ties run deeper, Richardson said.
“All our kids are friends,” Richardson said. “Some of them work out together, and they pull for each other.”
A Memorial Stadium setting
Madison Prep acting coach Landry Williams confirmed the 20th-seeded Chargers (5-5) will host No. 4 St. James (8-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The Class 3A second-round game is a homecoming of sorts for St. James coach Robert Valdez, a former Southern University player who spent one season as head coach at Scotlandville two years ago and also had a head coaching stint at McKinley. Valdez and Williams were SU teammates in the 1990s.
Looking at No. 1
Donaldsonville will be the second straight Baton Rouge area opponent for Sterlington, a 63-30 first-round winner over No. 32 Baker. The Tigers were in District 6-3A with Baker a year ago and have noticed what happened in the first round.
The Buffaloes trailed 38-30 in the third quarter. Sterlington capitalised on four Baker turnovers in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We knew Baker and thought they would give Sterlington some trouble,” Richardson said. “Sterlington is No. 1 for a reason, and they are really good. Seeing what Baker did and the way we played in our last two games, one of which was against De La Salle, gives us confidence.”
Dutchtown coach Guy Mistretta sees facing No. 1 West Monroe at home as a positive and an important gauge for the Griffins program.
“Everybody talks about what a challenge it is to play a No. 1 seed, but it also is an opportunity,” Mistretta said. “We get to measure ourselves against the top program, see where we are and see what needs to come next.”