This past Friday, I went to Spartans Stadium to check up on two 5A programs in South Louisiana in the East Ascension Spartans and the Hammond Tornadoes. Both teams showcased a lot of bright talent on the field, but just like any fall scrimmage, both teams were a little sloppy coming out of the gate with some high snaps and penalties, but at the same time, both teams hit on a lot of big plays as well. Here are a couple of nuggets that I found with both teams after the scrimmage.
East Ascension is trying to carry on the momentum of last season’s late surge when the Spartans won five of their last seven seasons including a district championship as they open the fall with a scrimmage against Hammond. Seeing the Spartans play offensively, there is no denying what their offensive identity is going to be as they are led by sophomore sensation Brysten Martinez. The 6’6, 290-pound athletic left tackle is quickly becoming one of the state’s top prospects for the Class of 2026 as he has already picked up offers from Georgia and Oregon this week. Pair him with Aiden Joseph, Kelvin Gray, Kendrell Green, Derez Queen and others, the Spartans’ big offensive line will pave the way for their deep running back room.
The Spartans have many different options that can touch the football. In fact, four different running backs were sharing carries in the backfield. Before the one quarter scrimmage, the first and second team offenses got a chance to run a couple of plays against the 1st and 2nd Hammond defensive units. Tajh Washington and Caleb Davis are two big, physical backs that will run behind an offensive line that averages 300 pounds across the board. Davis had a touchdown run in the first part of the scrimmage while Washington had four carries for 42 yards in the quarter of action.
While Davis and Washington brought the thunder, Jason Blackburn and Jeremiah Wilson will bring the speed. Before the scrimmage began, Blackburn had a 69 yard touchdown run against Hammond’s second team. Meanwhile, Wilson had 34 yards rushing on three carries in the scrimmage. With a big offensive line and plenty of options, East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee likes what he has in the running game.
“We had some miscues, but we got a lot of guys loose, and the offensive line opened up some big holes for us. We have three to four good young backs. Tajh Washington is the leading back and he did a great job. We saw a lot of promise. We have a long way to go. This is just an extension of fall camp and now, we have to get ready for the jamboree.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
One thing that Coach Lee agreed to get better at is the center quarterback exchange. There were a couple of times throughout the scrimmage that the quarterback could not corral a high snap or the quarterback would drop the football on a transfer to the running back. Getting that cleaned up is pivotal for the Spartans, especially for an offense that wants to get ahead of the chains.
“Last year, our snaps were all over the place and when we were getting it to him, he was putting some heat on the snaps. You got to adjust. You got to get your hands up and get ready for the ball. We will be much better in that next week.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
The Spartans will also rely on quarterback Hudson Browning under center. Browning is a good athlete that can extend some plays with his legs and make plays happen. In the scrimmage, he completed four of eight passes for 28 yards while rushing for 44 yards on five carries. The Spartans defeated the Tornadoes in the scrimmage by a final score of 10-0, and it was his heads up play to find wide receiver Jacorey Mitchell after trying to corral a high snap from the center for the only touchdown of the 15-minute period.
“Both quarterbacks made some good decisions. The ball got away from them a couple times. Got to give Hammond some credit. They were able to come in with some pressure and they got home a couple of times. We got to get that fixed.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
The defense pitched a shutout in the scrimmage against Hammond led by veterans Nate Allen, Brennon Thompson, and others. As it always is in Gonzales, the Spartans defense was fast and physical on Friday night. Despite the great performance, Coach Lee knows that they can be even better.
“We flew to the football. We got to do a better job against the run. They made a couple of big plays. Those are some game changers. Again, Hammond did a good job. They got some good players. That’s what you want. You want good competition in the fall scrimmage and try to make it out injury free.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
Being injury free and for the team to continue to learn the details is what Lee wants from his players heading into the team’s jamboree against Dutchtown next week in order to get ready for a loaded non-district schedule that has Zachary, West Monroe, Destrehan, Alexandria, and De La Salle before district play begins.
“The details and the scheme are the little things that turn into big things. It also seemed like we have 25-30 penalties tonight so we got to do a better job in doing that.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
Entering his fourth year, former LSU linebacker Dorsett Buckels is leading the Hammond Tornadoes. Last season was a great step for the program as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 while beating football power Amite during the regular season. Although it may not show up in the scoreboard as the Tornadoes lost to the East Ascension Spartans by a final score of 10-0, Coach Buckels was encouraged with what he saw.
“East Ascension is definitely a physical team. We came in with a mindset to dominate. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but EA is a good team. We had some injuries before this game with five starters out. It affected us a little bit, but I am glad to see the backups really step up. We saw some bright spots. We are going to move forward and we are definitely going to have a great season this year.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
There were some bright spots with the Tornadoes’ freshman quarterback Terin Jones, who connected with talented wide receiver Kenyatta Fleet for a 69 yard touchdown before the 15 minute scrimmage started. The offense also had another explosive play during the scripted part of the fall practice when Jermaine Davis spun off a tackle, made one cut, and scored on a 70 yard touchdown.
“Keep an eye on Kenyatta Fleet and Jermaine Davis. Jermaine ran for a long touchdown. Speed kills. We all know that. Kenyatta Fleet scored a touchdown as well. We are just going to keep grinding. Eli Johnson may have not broken one loose tonight but keep an eye on him too this season.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
Although the Tornadoes couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the endzone during the scrimmage, this experience was a good one for the young signal caller.
“I saw some great things in him. He is a freshman so he is going to have his bumps and bruises, but for the most part, there are some things that we can fix.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
Defensively, the Tornadoes held their own against a physical offense by only giving up one touchdown in the 15-minute quarter. There were a lot of positive takeaways from that side of the football.
“Defensively, we made some plays, but there are some things to work on as well.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
The Tornadoes will continue to grow and move on as they will face the Live Oak Eagles in the jamboree next week.
“We are going to breakdown the film and get prepared for the next week. I told my team that EA feels like they are a championship team and I told my guys that if they think they are doing that well, then we should feel like that we can accomplish anything that we want to do as well. We are always going to continue to be the standard and just know that we can play with anybody.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
The Tornadoes will start the regular season by playing Amite, Riverdale, and South Terrebonne before kicking off district play. Coach Buckels says that the fans should be expecting an exciting brand of football in 2023.
“The fans should be excited. We just pray that we stay safe and healthy. If we stay healthy, we will have a great year.”Hammond Head Coach Dorsett Buckels
Check out the photo gallery from the scrimmage below!
The day before, I also got the chance to see Zachary scrimmage against E.D. White. For more information and to watch the highlights from that scrimmage, click below!