Eighth-ranked Scotlandville High School returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown and relied on a pair of big plays on special teams and defense midway through the third quarter to pull away for 39-20 victory over East Ascension in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.

The Hornets (1-0) repelled a charge from the Spartans (0-1) with an interception return of 37 yards from Damien Knighten. Running back Marlon Gunn Jr. added an 89-yard scoring run with 1:12 remaining in a game played at Dutchtown’s Griffin Field. It was his second rushing touchdown of the game after giving his team a 21-14 lead with a score with seven seconds left before halftime.

Knighten added a second interception at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

Scotlandville extended its 20-14 halftime lead to 27-14 after blocking a punt, turning that into a short 23-yard scoring drive that was capped by quarterback C’Zavian Teasett’s 10-yard pass to John Hubbard in the back of the end zone at the 6:29 mark of the third quarter.

Scotlandville, which has won its past four meetings against EA, held a 361-252 advantage in total yards.

Teasett completed 19 of 29 passes for 182 yards with Knighten also sparkling on offense with seven catches for 58 yards. Hubbard led the Hornets with eight grabs for 61 yards and a TD.

Gunn paced his team’s rushing attack with 16 carries for 157 and two scores.

EA quarterback Troy Dunn was 11 of 22 passing for 130 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Jacorey Mitchell led the way with four catches for 43 yards.

The two teams combined for three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the first half when Scotlandville marched 80 yards in 11 plays for a 21-14 halftime lead.

Teasett completed 6 of 7 passes for 64 yards on his team’s final drive of the half which Gunn Jr. finished with a 1-yard run.

EA rallied from a 14-0 deficit with back-to-back scoring drives with 300-pound defensive tackle Aiden Joseph crashing in from 2 yards out and following a short 5-yard punt, the Spartans needed four plays to cover 21 yards with Dunn connecting with Mitchell who made a nice adjustment on an underthrow pass for a 13-yard TD with 2:30 showing before halftime.

Scotlandville took a 7-0 lead nine seconds into the game when Chance Williams brought back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score. Williams made it 14-0 with 2:47 left in the second quarter on a 9-yard run but was ejected following a pair of personal fouls after the touchdown.