GONZALES — When the final whistle blew on East Ascension’s game against Dutchtown on Friday night, tears started to stream down Spartans running back Joshua Bates’ face.
Sure, his team blew a 23-point lead in the second half to put the game into overtime, but none of that mattered as he crossed the goal line to give East Ascension its first win against Dutchtown in more than a decade.
The Spartans took the district match 36-30 in an overtime thriller that ended on Bates’ 10-yard run on the second play of the extra period after being set up by a Dutchtown fumble on the first play.
“I’m crying because I’m happy,” Bates said struggling to fight back more tears. “We finally beat Dutchtown.
“This is the biggest moment in my football career. We finally beat them.”
Bates finished the game with 81 yards on 11 carries, only a fraction of the 291 yards the Spartans posted on the ground during the game. Quarterback Kyran Irvin led both teams with 132 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts, including a 10-yard touchdown run early in the second half, which set off a 20-minute drought where the Griffins were able to score 23 unanswered points to tie the game.
The most impressive part of the Griffins’ improbable comeback was that they did it all in the matter of six minutes of game time, starting with running back Fitell Bolding’s 1-yard score with two minutes to play in the third quarter.
Bolding followed up the score by recovering the muffed kickoff on the next play at the East Ascension 5-yard line to set up another 1-yard score for himself.
The Griffins would complete the comeback on the next drive on a 18-yard run by running back Kajuan Coleman up the left side. Bolding finished the game with 63 yards and a trio of touchdowns on 15 carries, while Coleman registered 41 yards on eight carries.
Through the air, Dutchtown quarterback Brandt Fritsche completed eight of his 17 passes for 11 yards, but also fumbled twice and threw an interception.
“(The turnovers) were the ball game,” Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said. “We fought back, they showed a lot of character and a lot of guts and a lot of pride to fight back, we just needed to execute in overtime.”
Saia said the Griffins felt like they couldn’t play any worse after more than 30 minutes of struggling to simply hold on to the football, with four turnovers in the first half alone, which helped give East Ascension its original lead.
The Spartans jumped ahead to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game when defensive lineman Jayvin Johnson recovered Fritsche’s first fumble of the night deep in Griffin territory. East Ascension only needed one play for wide receiver Malik Van Driver to score on an 18-yard reverse.
“We started off with nine new starters on defense and for them to come out and play tonight like they did, I’m just so happy,” East Ascension coach Paul Bourgeois said. “Offense scored at the end, but the defense made the big stop and that’s the way I want it said.”
Walker was the only other Spartan to punch one into the end zone, scoring his first on a one-yard, fourth-and-1 run with two minutes to play in the first quarter. His second would come just a few minutes later in the second quarter on a diving, 6-yard run into the end zone.