GONZALES - Turnovers were part of the story on a soggy Spartan Field on Friday night.
Tara and East Ascension combined for eight turnovers, but East Ascension discovered a difference maker in sophomore running back Sione Palelei. Palelei scored on a 30-yard run with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter to help pace East Ascension to a 14-0 victory over Tara in the season opener for both teams.
“Sione has potential,” EAHS first-year coach Paul Bourgeois said. “It took us a while to find out what back to use tonight. Sione can handle the mud very well and he and some others gave us some breathing room. I need to give Tara some credit for how well they played.”
Palelei ran four times for 127 yards. He had four runs of at least 30 yards. His last run stood out. Taking the ball at the EAHS 5-yard line, Palelei burst up the middle, cut outside and back inside for what appeared to be a 95-yard score. An inadvertent whistle from an official cut the gain to 60 yards and gave EAHS the ball at the Tara 35-yard line with three minutes remaining.
EAHS ended that series with a fumble. The Spartans lost three fumbles and had an interception. Tara had two fumbles and two interceptions.
In the second quarter, East Ascension’s Jalon Watts and Darren Sharper recovered fumbles. The recovery by Watts set up the initial score. He recovered at the Tara 34-yard line. Jamarcus Jarvis ran 19 yards and added nine yards on two carries. Quarterback Adam Miller scored on a 1-yard run and the PAT was blocked as EAHS led 6-0 with 9:28 remaining in the second quarter.
Tara’s best drive came on its second possession. The Trojans took over at the EA 31-yard line following Clemmitte Harrell’s interception of a Miller pass. Facing a fouth-and-eight, Tara’s Kaelon Stevenson caught a tipped ball for a key first down. Josh Blanks gained 9 yards on a draw play for another first. Tara’s Aaron Wright ran four times inside the 10, and was stopped short at the 3-yard line on fourth down by De’Andre Darville.
“Our defense stayed tough,” Bourgeois said. “It’s a win. We’re going to take it. Right now we’re 1-0.”
“Our first game this season was a monsoon game,” Tara coach Ron LeJeune said. “I told the guys I was proud of them. They played hard. I saw a lot of good things on offense and defense out of our guys. We had some penalties and turnovers that hurt. We’re going to keep working to become a good football team.”
Tara quarterback John Washington completed 14 of 26 passes for 79 yards. Wright had five catches for 39 yards and ran eight times for 39 yards. Josh Blanks added 45 yards rushing on 12 tries.
Jarvis gained 70 yards on 11 carries for the Spartans. Miller carried 19 times for 52 yards.
Sharper had a key interception late in the game to end Tara’s last chance. EA’s second score was set up by an interception by Tyrous Wilson.