GONZALES — The star players came out. But when two teams like fifth-ranked Zachary and No. 6 East Ascension meet in a Class 5A season opener, the possibilities are off the charts.

And so was East Ascension’s 40-31 victory over ZHS on Friday night at Spartan Stadium, thanks to eight lead changes and 853 yards of offense.

With the Spartans clinging to a 33-31 lead, two lesser-known players stepped into the spotlight. Masey Lewis recovered a low snap Zachary quarterback Keilon Brown could not field with 5:04 left at the EAHS 37. Four minutes later, running back Kendall Washington broke loose for a 43-yard gain that set up a game-clinching 3-yard TD run by QB Cameron Jones for EAHS (1-0) at the 1:02 mark.

“Anytime you get a win over a (David) Brewerton-coached team, you’d better enjoy it,” EAHS coach Darnell Lee said. “They’re a well-coached teams that has won big games like this and championships. This is big for us.”

Brown, who led Zachary (0-1) to 5A titles the past two years, ran for a game-high 210 yards on 18 carries, including TD runs of 42, 60 and 43 yards. He also completed 9 of 17 passes for 119 yards for a Broncos team with 18 new starters. RJ Allen had 111 yards on 20 carries for ZHS.

"This means a lot," EAHS receiver Steven McBride said of the win. "Nothing we did surprised me. I make plays for my team. We all do."

On the flip side, McBride had five catches for 127 yards that featured TD plays of 48 and 29 yards. Jones passed for 146 yards and three TDs for EAHS and ran for 93 yards on 11 carries with two more TDs. The Spartans’ other QB, Hobart Grayson IV, ran for 98 yards and a TD.

“We talked all week about this game being a slugfest, and that’s what I wanted,” Zachary’s Brewerton said. “I wanted our young guys to have to go in there deep to see what they could do. At the end of the night, we made one mistake than they did. Credit Darnell … they played a great game.”

EAHS’ Jordan Goodlow returned the game’s first punt 60 yards to the ZHS 5. Jones scored on a 5-yard run to make it 7-0 with 10:06 left in the first period.

It got very offensive in the second quarter. The teams combined to score on four straight possessions to close out the half. Brown raced 42 yards to the end zone to tie it 7-7 nine seconds into the second quarter. The Broncos then took a 10-7 lead on 36-yard field goal by Logan Fletcher with 5:58 to go.

McBride came out the slot and turned a mid-range pass from Jones into a 48-yard TD. East Ascension led 14-10. But Brown dropped a 46-yard TD pass to Jayden Williams just beyond the reach of an EAHS defender. ZHS led 17-14 with 1:25 to go.

EAHS had one more TD in its first-half arsenal. But on the next play, Jones hit Jacquell Mack in stride with a 20-yard TD pass. Just like that, the Spartans had the lead again at 21-17 with 12 seconds left in the half.

The hard hits and big plays kept coming. Zachary regained a 24-21 lead when Brown scored on a 60-yard run at the 8:05 mark of the third period. The Spartans inserted the 6-foot-5 Grayson and he ran for 83 yards on a five-play drive, scoring a 2-yard run with 7:58 to go to give East Ascension a 27-24 edge.

Brown scored Zachary’s final TD on a 43-yard run with 2:13 left in the third period. EAHS took the lead for good on Jones’ 29-yard scoring toss to McBride with 9:50 left in the game.

Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com