GONZALES - Already a little stunned by the first points it had allowed all season, the East Ascension High School defense found itself in a much more dire predicament against Walker on Friday as the fourth quarter whittled away.
The Wildcats had the ball, had some confidence and had a chance to take a lead at Spartan Stadium.
Just in time, though, the EA defense - sparked by sophomore linebacker Ja’Lon Watts - regained its footing and propelled the Spartans to a 37-20 triumph and a 3-0 start.
With EA clinging to a 23-20 lead, the Wildcats pieced together their best drive of the night.
Watts stuffed Carlton Perkins for a 1-yard loss on third down from the 18-yard-line and sacked him on fourth down to snuff out the drive.
With the ball back and 6:31 on the clock, the Spartans put the game away when Sione Palelei wiggled free for a 53-yard touchdown scamper. Jamarcus Jarvis added the exclamation point moments later with a 15-yard TD run, his third of the night and part of a 177-yard rushing performance.
“They had momentum,” EA coach Paul Bourgeois said. “That was the only time they were driving us back all night and we had to find something. Late in the game, to face a challenge like that and to be able to stop them when we had to tells me a lot about my team.”
Walker coach Dewayne Severio saw some of the same from his Wildcats (0-3).
Despite the loss, Walker’s performance provided a glimmer of hope - perhaps of what lies ahead.
“We came out and competed,” Severio said. “We played better and had a chance there in the fourth quarter, but that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for this.”
Severio made a “W” with his fingers to illustrate a point. And on the fourth-quarter drive, it certainly looked like the Wildcats had a shot at the win.
Taking over at its own 36 after a punt, Walker started clicking behind Perkins as he carried the ball six times for 38 yards (he finished with 133) to help move the ball to the 23.
That’s when the Spartans stiffened.
Walker showed flashes in the third quarter when Shaun Lowe’s 47-yard dash on a jet sweep set up his own 1-yard run that pulled the Wildcats within 23-20 right before the final period arrived.
Those were the only points in the third after a back-and-forth second quarter that featured 36 points.
Walker scored first, not just in the game, but of the season against the Spartans when Perkins crashed into the end zone form a yard out to cash in on Chase Biotnot’s interception and 37-yard return.
The 7-0 lead didn’t get much shelf time, though.
On the first snap after the kickoff, Jarvis took a counter handoff to the right, blazed past two defenders near the line of scrimmage and glided 45 yards to even the score.
Jarvis struck again moments later with a 40-yard TD burst on an almost identical play for a Spartans lead.
And a 45-yard Adam Miller-to-Chad Hill pass-and-run set up Mason Decoteau’s 32-yard goal at the 1:34 juncture of the second quarter to nudge the EA lead to 17-7.
Walker had a big-play response when Perkins took a shotgun snap on the first play of the ensuing series, picked a hole on a read-option and bolted 74 yards for a TD.
Miller zipped a short slant to Deandrus Ennis to convert a fourth-and-goal touchdown play right before halftime.