GONZALES — A game-changing interception return for a touchdown is nothing new for East Ascension coach Darnell Lee, particularly when his Spartans are playing Ascension Parish rival St. Amant.

Plays like that helped the winning team in two of the last three years, and it did again Friday night when Jyren Ester’s 84-yard touchdown return of a Cole Poirrier pass sparked East Ascension to a 34-7 win over St. Amant.

Ester’s return came in the final minute of the first half, and lifted the Spartans to a 10-7 lead at the break. East Ascension (8-2, 4-1 in District 5-5A) added two more touchdowns in the first three minutes of the third quarter, and let its defense do the rest.

“In a big rivalry game like this, momentum swings are important,” Lee said. “We got that one right before the half, and it really had us in great shape. Our defense kept us in the game and gave us opportunities.”

St. Amant (5-5, 2-3) gained 112 yards on the night, and only managed two first downs in the second half. The Gators came into the contest rated No. 33 in the latest Class 5A power rankings, and saw their hopes of making the LHSAA playoffs take a hit.

East Ascension, which was third in the power rankings, put the game away in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Spartans took the kickoff to start the quarter, and four plays later Cameron Jones found Hobart Grayson open at midfield, and he sprinted to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown.

After the ensuing kickoff, St. Amant quarterback Cole Poirrier fumbled as he was sacked by EA lineman Masey Lewis. Demarcus Ester recovered at the SA 5, setting up Jones’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Jyrin Johnson.

Jones completed 8 of 23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 76 yards. Defensively, Lewis had three sacks, and linebacker Jerrell Boykins had a sack and two tackles for loss.

Poirrier had several passes dropped, and finished 13 of 27 for 108 yards with an interception.

“(East Ascension) is a very good football team. We were up 7-3 and that interception took the wind out of our sails,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said. “They got over the top of us on their first possession (of the third quarter) and then we fumbled on first down. That was pretty much the game right there.”

The first quarter was highlighted by St. Amant’s defensive stop at midfield. East Ascension failed to convert on 4th-and-3 at the SA 47, but the Gators couldn’t take advantage. After St. Amant picked up a first down, Poirrier’s 47-yard field goal try came up short.

East Ascension put up the game’s first points on Alex Phelps’ 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter. St. Amant responded with a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Poirrier completed three passes for 59 yards helping set up a 1-yard TD run by Reggie Sims.