GONZALES — Four games into his tenure at East Ascension football coach Paul Bourgeois had the Spartans undefeated but in search of the program’s first signature win.
East Ascension positioned itself for such a landmark — leading late in the first half and deadlocked with just over eight minutes to play before watching both slip away.
Mandeville maintained its undefeated status with a pair of touchdowns in the last five minutes of play, including a back-breaking 57-yard touchdown run from leading rusher Charles Jones, to register a hard-fought 27-14 victory Friday over East Ascension at Spartan Stadium.
“You’re playing a team with the same amount of players and playmakers, and one slipped through a crack,” Bourgeois said.
East Ascension (3-1) pulled even at 14-all with 8:03 remaining on Sioni Palelei’s 1-yard fourth-and-goal run. The drive was set up by defensive back Shiervan Ursin’s 30-yard interception return to Mandeville’s 42-yard line.
The Spartans needed 11 plays, including a clutch 18-yard screen pass from Adam Miller to Palelei on fourth-and-7.
Mandeville (4-0) took the lead for good at 20-14 on Mat Bergeron’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Daniel DeMelo and came back a series later with Jones, who had 20 carries for 95 yards, breaking out of a tackle in the backfield on third-and-2 to speed 57 yards to a touchdown.
Before that carry, EA’s defense had limited Mandeville to minus-18 yards rushing.
“I thought it was a great effort by our defense,” Bourgeois said. “They’re playing well above what we thought they could. Right now we’re real proud of them.”
Quarterback Bergeron completed 17 of 28 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Xavier Marcus. Bergeron overcame his first interception of the season — a total of 177 attempts — to complete five of his last six passes for 59 yards.
Mandeville outgained EA, 298-194.
Miller completed 10 of 19 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown and an interception on EA’s final series. Running back Jamarcus Jarvis led the team in receiving with four catches for 55 yards and a TD, while Palelei rushed 14 times for 44 yards.
“There’s no question that’s a well-coached football team,” Mandeville football coach Guy Lecompte said of EA. “Those guys are playing hard. I was very impressed with them.”
Mandeville took advantage of a short punt and EA fumble to score a pair of touchdowns in the last 2:34 of play in the second quarter for a 14-7 halftime lead.
The combination of Bergeron to Marcus worked for both of Mandeville’s touchdowns — a 40-yarder with 2:34 remaining and a 2-yarder with 3.9 seconds left — to give the Skippers their first lead of the game.
Dennis Duronslet’s 23-yard punt return was the catalyst for EA’s first touchdown: a 37-yard drive that took only four plays.
A swing pass from Miller to Jarvis appeared headed for a minimal gain when Jarvis patiently picked a hole on the left side and darted through untouched to complete a 23-yard scoring play with 9:27 showing in the second quarter.
Mandeville had a total of 46 yards offense on 19 plays before Bergeron found Marcus on a tunnel screen on second-and-14 which the senior wide out turned into a 40-yard scoring play to the tie the game at 7-all with 2:34 left before halftime.
Defensive lineman Patrick West, who registered a pair of sacks, recovered a fumble by Miller at MHS’s 41 with less than a minute to play.
After Jones carried for two yards on first down the duo of Bergeron and DeMelo worked for two straight completions totaling 51 yards to EA’s 2-yard line with 14.1 seconds left. Following an incompletion Bergeron spotted Marcus wide open near the corner of the end zone to complete the five-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 53 seconds.
“We still in all we have a lot to improve on but it’s good to see that we have kids really playing hard and really good,” Bourgeois said. “It’s just a matter of all 22 doing every play and we weren’t on that side tonight.”