GONZALES - Lenard Tillery rushed for 215 yards to help McKinley hold on for a 15-12 victory at East Ascension in a District 5-5A opener for both.

The opportunistic Panthers (3-3) took advantage of East Ascension mistakes, including a muffed punt with 2:50 to go that allowed MHS to run out the clock.

“We finally finished a game,” McKinley coach Robert Signater said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. We finished. We hung in there. We took some adversity. We had some calls go both ways that were kind of bad. But we endured, and I’m glad we got the victory.”

Jarmarcus Jarvis rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown for EAHS (4-2 overall).

“It’s like we would get good things going, and wouldn’t quite finish them up,” East Ascension coach Paul Bourgeois said. “It seemed like we would have them stopped and they would end up with just enough to get the first. We were close, just not close enough.”

Trailing 12-8 in the third quarter, an EAHS offside penalty on a fourth-and-3 at the Panther 35 gave McKinley a first down.

Two plays later, Tillery blew past EAHS defenders for a 51-yard TD run. Trenton Quinn added the extra point to give McKinley a 15-12 edge with 5:53 to go in the third quarter.

That was all the Panthers needed to pull out a victory.

McKinley led 8-6 at halftime before East Ascension took its first lead on its first possession of the third quarter. Jarvis took a handoff out of the shotgun and raced up the middle 49 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion try failed, but the Spartans led 12-8 with 8:29 to go in the third quarter.

“That’s two weeks in a row he’s looked outstanding,” Bourgeois said. “I think he’s turned it up a notch in the last two weeks, and I’m very proud of him.”

McKinley needed just five plays to move 60 yards for the first score of the game midway through the second quarter.

On first-and-10, Jourdan Robinson rolled left to avoid the rush and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cody Swain, who was standing open in the front left corner of the end zone. After an EAHS penalty on the PAT, Tillery added a two-point conversion run as McKinley led 8-0 with six minutes left before halftime.

“It’s a healthy sight to see (Tillery) back.” Signater said.

EAHS notched its first score on the following drive. Adam Miller’s 34-yard pass to Sione Palelei moved the Spartans to the McKinley 14. Two plays later, Miller rushed in from 5 yards, but an incompletion on the two-point try left EAHS down 8-6 with 2:19 remaining in the first half.

Both teams failed to capitalize on other scoring chances in the first half. McKinley got as far as the EA 17 on its second drive, but two runs netted minus-4 yards and two incompletions ended the series.

On the final play of the first quarter, EAHS’ Miller connected with Palelei for an apparent 54-yard TD pass off a middle screen. But a block in the back wiped out the score.