East Ascension High School football team wants more in 2019

The East Ascension High School Spartans went 11-2 last season and ended the season with a heartbreaking 27-24 quarterfinal loss to John Ehret in the 5A playoffs.

“The kids got a taste of success last season," coach Darnell Lee said. "They learned that we must start fast and finish strong in everything we do."

As Lee enters his third season as the head football coach for his alma mater, he knows expectations are very high for his team. “We had a great off season of workouts, the kids have bought in, our numbers are really good," he said. "We have to capitalize on our recent success, and the only way to do that is to work hard."

With graduation, the Spartan offense lost quarterback Jason Wakefield as well as running back Evan Copeland, wide out Shaivonn Robinson and reliable kicker Alberto Ontiveros.

Taking over as the Spartan quarterback will be senior Cameron Jones. Jones is a dual threat quarterback who has waited his turn. He is poised to have a great season.

Senior Ethan Bagwell is a returning starter at running back along with rising sophomore Kendall Washington, who is a bruising back. Senior Jeffery Hills will be in the mix as well.

The wide receiver position is in good hands with seniors Steven McBride and Jyrin Johnson. Both players are on the recruiting radar of several college football programs and will play on Saturdays. Other receivers expected to contribute in the Spartan spread offense are juniors Navell Chopin and Jordan Goodlow and senior Armarius Williams.

The offensive line is big and returns starters Michael Bailey (6-foot-2, 230) and Gavin Soniat (5-foot-11, 266). Newcomers include Marcus Banks (6-foot-1, 288), Demarcus Ester (6-foot-2, 315) and Braxton Smith (6 feet, 285).

”Our offensive skill positions should be a strength for us; the line is big and physical," Lee said.

Replacing kicker Ontiveros will be a challenge, as he went 48-of-48 on point-after-touchdowns and 9-of-12 on field goals.

The Spartan defense was lights-out last season. Losses to graduation include defensive MVP of the district Deshon Hall, who has signed with Louisiana Tech. Other standouts who have graduated are All-District players Stanford Knockum and Derrick Smith and all-around athlete JaQunn Mitchell.

What looks to be a strength even with the losses up front is the defensive line. “Defensive line should be an area of strength for us, we have size and athleticism up front," Lee said. Top players on defense include senior linebacker Javon Carter, a returning All-District player. Senior outside linebacker DaJon Jones is very difficult to block and has some college offers. The secondary will be led by senior Jyren Ester, who has great ball skills.

Newcomers to the defense up front are Macey Lewis, Ashton Milton, Dezmond Schuster and Jerrell Boykins, who looks the part of a big, fast and dominant defensive end; he has several colleges looking at him in advance of his graduation in 2021. Junior Blake Thompson will move into the starting lineup and has the tools to be a very good player. Sophomore linebacker Rionte Jones is a converted running back who is a thumper in the middle of the Spartan defense.

The back end of the defense has speed and athleticism led by Ester. Justin Walker, LeRoyal Ealy, Matthew Hall and Troy Delmore, who form an outstanding secondary that can tackle and cover. The punter will be William Harris, and big things are expected from him.

No one can accuse the Spartans of scheduling weak opponents. They open with 5A champ Zachary, as well as 4A power Warren Easton, Division 3 power St. Charles and the normal district gauntlet of Catholic, Woodlawn and McKinley, plus parish rivals St. Amant and Dutchtown.

As the Spartans hit the practice field to prepare for the 2019 season, the coaching staff has the task of pushing the players to be their best, on and off the field. “We must remain healthy," Lee said. "The healthier we are, the better for the Spartans."

A team with high expectations can be tricky; the one thing we know about these players is they want more.

Projected starters in the spread offense for the East Ascension High School Spartans are quarterback Cameron Jones; running backs Ethan Bagwell and Kendall Washington; wide receivers Steven McBride, Jyrin Johnson, Navell Chopin, Armarius Williams and Jordan Goodlow; and offensive linemen Jordan Goodlow, Michael Bailey, Gavin Soniat, Marcus Banks, Demarcus Ester and Braxton Smith.

Projected starters on the 3-4 attacking defense for the East Ascension High School Spartans are defensive linemen Macey Lewis, Ashton Milton, Jerrell Boykins and Dezmond Schuster; linebackers Javon Carter, Da’Jon Jones, Blake Thompson and Rionte Jones; defensive backs Jyren Ester, Justin Walker, LeRoyal Early, Matthew Hall and Troy Delmore; and punter William Harris.

Troy LeBoeuf covers sports for the Ascension Advocate. He can be reached at troyleboeuf@hotmail.com or ascension@theadvocate.com or on Twitter @Troyleboeuf.