GONZALES — Ownership was already a major theme in the life of East Ascension running back Josh Bates. EAHS coach Paul Bourgeois helped reinforce that point to the senior just before a Wednesday practice.

“He’s very aggressive in his running, and he’d already broken several tackles during the jamboree,” Bourgeois said during an interview as Bates watched. “But he’s got to remember once he starts twisting and turning the ball is the most important thing. There was a fumble that gave St. Amant momentum.

“He’s got to hold on to it. Now that’s not to say that Josh has a problem with fumbles, because he doesn’t. You still have to be conscious of it on every play. We know he can do it. We love the fact that he runs so hard.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Bates listened intently and filed away Bourgeois’ comments just the way you’d expect a senior to. And yes, he owned it.

“When I first started playing on the varsity in 10th grade, I focused on going through the hole,” Bates said. “I like running inside because I think I can get more yards that way.”

Bates is soft-spoken, but it’s evident that he views life much the same way he does running the ball. He wants to get the most out of it. Though he hasn’t decided on a college major, Bates said his goal is to own his own business some day.

In the meantime, taking care of business on and off the field is important for the Mississippi native who moved to Louisiana before middle school.

“I think we can push past the first two rounds of the playoffs this year,” Bates said. “I’ve been knowing all these guys since my seventh-grade year. We try to stay close together.

“We’re getting better with our leadership as seniors. Our defense has more seniors. On offense, we’re getting better every day. Our district is tough, but I like my team.”

Bates said he never got to play organized football as a youngster in McComb, Mississippi. He did run track, which helped him develop 4.5 speed in the 40-yard-dash.

After the death of his mother, Bates and younger brother James, now a middle schooler, moved to Louisiana to live with their older sister Tasha, who attended college in the Baton Rouge area. The journey also reinforced the notion of ownership.

“I have a responsibility to my sister and my brother,” Bates said. “I have to set a good example for my brother. You know, he’s already taller than me, and he plays defensive end on the middle school team.

“My sister does so much to provide for us, and I appreciate that. Sometimes she can’t make it to my games because she has to work, but she makes a lot of them. I’d like to be able to pay her back and help her some day.”

For now, finding paydirt — the end zone — for the Spartans is a priority for Bates, who yearns for the chance to play college football. He led EAHS in rushing a year ago, including a breakout game against Woodlawn.

Bates has gotten mail from Kansas State and has talked to a few coaches from state colleges but has no scholarship offers yet. Like the Spartans, Bates acknowledged that he’s a work in progress in the field and beyond.

Bourgeois praised Bates for his improved blocking that helps buy more time for quarterback Kyran Irvin and other teammates. He sees other areas to shore up.

“I need to work on raising my ACT score and keep improving my grades,” Bates said.

“On the field, I think I’m a little faster. I feel more comfortable making cuts and moves. I try to do my own thing now. I’m working on being more of a vocal leader.”

Bourgeois said the Spartans like the fact Bates is content to run in the spaces where there may be the bodies of lineman instead of grass. The EAHS coach pointed out one more fact.

“He’s got good vision,” Bourgeois said.

Few would argue with that statement.